India and Myanmar are all set to interact more closely at the business and intelligentsia level following the visit of a multi-think tank delegation from India to that country.
The delegation, led by Rajiv K Bhatia, director general, Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), visited Myanmar from March 4 to 8. Shyam Saran, former foreign secretary, was another important member of the delegation. Both Saran and Bhatia are also former ambassadors to Myanmar.
The purpose of the visit was to have first hand information about the reform process currently underway in the country and also to understand and evaluate its implications for India-Myanmar relations.
The visit began with a day-long seminar on 'Change in Myanmar: Impact on India-Myanmar Relations', at the Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS), Yangon. The deliberations at the seminar focussed on a number of issues spanning political, economic and security domains in the bilateral relationship.
The delegation had a unique opportunity to interact with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson, National League for Democracy (NLD). Besides, the delegation called on a number of political leaders and government officials, including U Win Myint, minister of commerce; U Zin Yaw, deputy foreign minister; U Thein Zaw, chairman, National Races Affairs and Internal Peace Implementation Committee of the Parliament and other government officials, businessmen, academics and members of the Indian community. The delegation also visited Mandalay and met with U Ye Myint, the chief minister of Mandalay.
During these interactions and deliberations, it emerged that India and Myanmar should not only acknowledge the shared historical and cultural ties but also strengthen bilateral relations and formulate suitable policy responses and implement programmes for the benefit of the people of the two countries. It was also observed that the time is now ripe for the two neighbours to strengthen the bilateral relations, particularly in the economic and development sectors as well as in the domain of connectivity so that the relationship gains further substance.
The delegation was also briefed by the Myanmar interlocutors about the ongoing political transformation in Myanmar. Many claimed that the reform process was now irreversible. The nation faced important opportunities and challenges on its way to the national elections, due in 2015. Others asserted that the reform process was at a nascent stage and would need to be nurtured carefully.