Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane with Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.(MEA)
Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane with Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.(MEA)

India, Myanmar discuss operationalisation of Sittwe port, Indian side announces new initiatives

Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and Indian Army chief General MM Naravane concluded a two-day visit to Myanmar on Monday with the focus on taking forward bilateral ties.
By Rezaul H Laskar | Edited by Sparshita Saxena | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 05, 2020 10:22 PM IST

The operationalisation of Sittwe port by 2021 - to boost the connectivity for the northeastern states, joint production of a Covid-19 vaccine and development projects for Rakhine state - figured in a meeting on Monday between a high-level Indian delegation and Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and Indian Army chief General MM Naravane concluded a two-day visit to Myanmar on Monday with the focus on taking forward bilateral ties in areas ranging from economic cooperation to security. This was the first time an Indian delegation to Myanmar included both officials.

Suu Kyi received a consignment of 3,000 vials of drug Remdesivir from the Indian side for treating Covid-19 patients. India announced a quota for importing 150,000 tonnes of urad dal from Myanmar till March 2021, and a grant of $2 million for building a bridge at Byanyu-Sarsichauk in Chin state to ramp up economic connectivity between Mizoram and Myanmar, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.

During their meeting with Suu Kyi at the foreign ministry in Naypyitaw, Shringla and Naravane discussed the “possibility of joint production of Covid-19 vaccine, operationalisation of the Sittwe port in the early part of 2021 and conducting vocational training programmes for youth in Rakhine state”, Myanmar’s foreign ministry said in a Facebook post.

The two sides discussed ways to further advance bilateral relations and strengthen cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, connectivity, transport, energy, development projects, capacity building and people to people linkages, the foreign ministry said.

The Indian side proposed the construction of a petroleum refinery in Thanlyn area near Yangon with an investment of around $6 billion, the people cited above said. “This will ensure energy security and the project would be a win-win arrangement for both countries,” said a person who declined to be named.

The Indian delegation also met the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s defence forces, senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw, and discussed issues of bilateral importance.

“Security and defence cooperation between the two sides is quite robust. Both countries are committed to not allowing the use of their territories against the security interests of the other. In this context, the handing over of 22 cadres of India insurgent groups by Myanmar was appreciated,” said the person cited above.

During the visit, the project agreement was signed between Myanmar’s ministry of agriculture, livestock and irrigation and the Indian embassy for upgrading an agricultural mechanisation sub-station to promote custom hiring services under the Rakhine State Development Programme. The project will address challenges in agricultural productivity and is expected to improve the socio-economic status of the people in Rakhine, the people said.

“India, as a close friend and partner of both Bangladesh and Myanmar, has a deep interest to see an early stabilisation of the situation in Rakhine state. India supports the safe, sustainable, and speedy repatriation of displaced persons from Bangladesh to Rakhine state based on the understanding between Bangladesh and Myanmar,” a second person said.

“India fully understands the urgency of this situation and has committed itself to humanitarian efforts in Myanmar and Bangladesh to facilitate an early return of the displaced persons. India has provided five tranches of relief supplies to Bangladesh and is willing to do more,” the second person added.

The Centre of Excellence in Software Development and Training (CESDT) at Myitkyina in Kachin state was also inaugurated. Under the ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund, New Delhi will set up IT infrastructure for advanced training using conventional and virtual classrooms and e-learning technologies.

A liaison office of the Indian embassy in Naypyitaw was also inaugurated at a ceremony attended by Soe Han, permanent secretary of Myanmar’s foreign ministry, Shringla, Indian envoy Saurabh Kumar, and senior officials of both sides. The people described this as a significant step towards establishing an embassy in Naypyitaw.

The operationalisation of Myanmar’s Sittwe port, as part of the Kaladan transit transport project, is part of India’s plans to boost connectivity with the landlocked northeastern states. India also wants enhanced security cooperation to counter the activities of militant groups, especially along the borders in Manipur and Nagaland, the people said.

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