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Sushma Swaraj meets Myanmar President, takes up issue of cross-border activities

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New Delhi: Myanmar will not allow its territory to be used for any anti-India activities, this was conveyed by Myanmarese leaders to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who assured “all help” to the new government that came to power in March after decades of military rule. In the first high-level visit from India after the civilian government assumed office in Naypyidaw, Swaraj called on President U Htin Kyaw and held talks with State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi on key bilateral issues, including cross-border activities by certain insurgent groups.

Describing India as a friendly country, Myanmarese President U Htin told Swaraj that he looks forward to a “very productive partnership”. “Myanmar leadership assured that they will not allow any insurgent groups to use any territory for action against India, (that) they all recognised is a friendly country which has stood by people of Myanmar and they look forward to a very productive partnership with India as Myanmar continues on its journey of peace, progress and development,” MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup told PTI.

The issue of cross-border activities by certain insurgent groups was taken up by Swaraj in her maiden meeting with the country’s first democratically-elected President in five decades, according to sources. Swaraj’s visit comes just days after the Indian Army had an encounter with NSCN-K militants in Nagaland who were trying to enter the country from Myanmar. While reports suggested that the Indian Army had crossed over to Myanmar, it was denied officially by India.

Swaraj also discussed with the Myanmarese leadership how India can help in Myanmar’s development efforts. They discussed a number of areas of possible collaboration, such as power. India is already supplying 3 MW electricity to Myanmar through the Moreh-Tamu link but this can be further upgraded, Swarup said.

Cooperation in renewable energy, transport, health, education and social development was also discussed during the meeting Swaraj had with the leadership. They also discussed the possibility of strong cooperation in area of agriculture, particularly pulses where there is a possibility of importing large amount of pulses from Myanmar, Swarup said following Swaraj’s 45 minutes-long meeting with Suu Kyi.

Congratulating Suu Kyi for the victory in the “first genuine election”, Swaraj assured her of “all help”.

“India is committed to strengthening your democratic institutions and socio-economic development of your people,” Swaraj said during her meeting with Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won a historic landslide election last year that finally brought an end to five decades of military rule. Swaraj said this was the message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee.

“Both sides agreed to make efforts to ensure peace and security along the long shared border. The Myanmar side stated that activities of insurgent groups would not be countenanced from Myanmar territory and suggested that this issue should be addressed and taken forward through cooperation in established bilateral forums,” sources said.

Swaraj extended invitations to both the Myanmar President and Suu Kyi to visit India at their earliest convenience. Both invitations were accepted, sources said. Suu Kyi recalled her long association with India. Both Suu Kyi and the President said they were looking forward to a visit to India.

Swaraj also conveyed India’s very strong support to Myanmar in exploring possibilities of further strengthening democratic institutions. The Myanmarese President remarked that India is a country that Myanmar can learn from, Swarup said.

“India is the country we should get best lessons from on what democracy means,” U Htin was quoted as saying. This visit by Swaraj will serve as a very strong foundation for development and diversification of bilateral ties which are set for a very bright future, Swarup said.

“Discussions were held in a very cordial and friendly atmosphere as befitting the traditionally close ties and strong people to people links between the two countries. Myanmar leaders were deeply appreciative of the fact that EAM represented the first Cabinet-level dignitary who had paid a visit to Myanmar after the new government took office,” sources said of Swaraj’s meetings with the leaders here.

Swaraj expressed “fullest support” to the new Myanmar government in its efforts to meet its developmental goals.

Suu Kyi also briefed Swaraj on the preparations for the upcoming 21st Century Panglong Conference for National Reconciliation. Swaraj, on her part, conveyed India’s full support to this process and said India stands ready to extend any necessary help.

“Both sides agreed that India’s Act East Policy fitted neatly into Myanmar’s needs and as such areas of mutually beneficial cooperation should be identified in the near future,” sources said.

Swaraj was accompanied by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and other senior Ministry of External Affairs officials. Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar and a Nobel laureate besides being a democracy icon, thanked Swaraj for the support.

Banned from becoming president by a junta-era Constitution, Suu Kyi has a strong control over the country’s first civilian-led government. The Constitution effectively bans her from the top post as it rules out anyone with foreign-born children or spouses from becoming president. Suu Kyi married and had two sons with a British national. The military also retains control of the key home, defence and border affairs ministries, while 25 per cent of parliamentary seats are reserved for unelected soldiers.

Incidentally, Swaraj’s visit comes just days after Suu Kyi made a high-profile trip to China.

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