Fri 29 Oct 2004
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Myanmar’s military strongman Than Shwe Friday wrapped up a visit to India with a pledge to bring democracy to his secretive state and said the junta will not let rebels against Indian rule operate from its soil.
The comments came at the end of the first visit by a Myanmar head of state in 24 years, and just nine days after the sacking of its pro-reform prime minister.
“The Myanmar side reiterated its strong commitment to building a modern democracy state suited to Myanmar’s needs and conditions and briefed the Indian leadership about the process of national reconciliation,” a joint statement said.
The two sides also agreed to boost bilateral trade while Myanmar invited Indian investment into a variety of sectors including energy and health.
The general earlier in the week briefed Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the ongoing national consultation process to cobble together a new constitution which promises to bring Myanmar back under civilian control.
The briefing, however, came a week after Than Shwe fired prime minister and fellow junta member Khin Nyunt, who was behind the nation’s “roadmap to democracy”.
Than Shwe also travelled to India’s software hub of Bangalore and the seat of Buddhism in the eastern pilgrimage town of Bodh Gaya during his five-day visit.
The two sides during talks in New Delhi agreed on regular exchange of high-level visits as well as military-to-military contacts, which analysts say is part of India’s plans to improve its ties with the country with which it shares a largely unpatrolled porous border.
The statement said Than Shwe and the Indian leaders agreed on the economic development of the two countries’ common borders, currently a hotbed of cross-border drug trafficking and weapons smuggling.
“At the same time, the two sides agreed that maintenance of peace and security along border areas was an essential pre-requisite to successful implementation of cross-border projects and to bringing about economic prosperity in the area.
“The Myanmar side reiterated that it would not allow insurgent activities against India from its soil. Both sides agreed to take necessary steps to prevent cross-border crimes, including drug trafficking, arms smuggling…,” it said.
New Delhi says anti-Indian rebel groups use camps in Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar to launch hit-and-run attacks in six of India’s seven northeastern states where militancy has claimed more than 50,000 lives since the country’s 1947 independence.
The general’s visit is the first to India in 24 years by a head of state of the secretive country formerly known as Burma, which has been under military rule since 1962.
During his visit, the United States urged India to convey to Than Shwe international concerns over human right abuses in his country.
“We hope that the government of India will convey to Than Shwe during his visit concerns shared by the international community,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Thursday.
The junta crushed a peaceful uprising in 1988 led by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, killing hundreds of people. She has been under intermittent house arrest for years.
India once vocally backed Aung San Suu Kyi but under its “Look East” policy launched in the early 1990s, it has been wooing Myanmar’s military leadership and promoting trade and investment.
India is also home to a large number of pro-democracy Myanmarese nationals.