Mon 28 Jul 2014
Filed under: News,Regional
The Modi government will step up its engagement with Myanmar in the coming month with the visit of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj for her first bilateral engagement with the leadership in Naypyidaw.
Her visit will be one of many as August kicks off a series of Asean ministerial meetings in Myanmar (Myanmar is the chair of Asean in 2014). She will do the ministerial meeting of the East Asia Summit and Asean Regional Forum (ARF) apart from a bilateral.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Naypyidaw in November for the East Asia Summit.
The annual ARF will be held in Naypyidaw on August 9-10. Though Asean will be grappling with issues as diverse as territorial disputes in South and East China Seas and the North Korean nuclear conundrum, India will be expected to mark a strong presence because Asean looks to New Delhi to provide the necessary balance to the largest power in Asia. In fact, Myanmar is also scheduled to hold the next meeting on the Mekong-Ganga Commission, where India should make a significant contribution in light of the Modi government’s big push on the Ganga.
Myanmar has become a crucial part of India’s neighbourhood diplomacy, both as a gateway to Asean and also as a partner in security in the northeast. Myanmar is the place where Indian and Chinese influences intersect, therefore acquiring a unique place in Indian strategic policy.
The fifth India-Myanmar Regional Border Committee meeting was held in Imphal last week. The Indian delegation was led by GOC 3 Corps Lt Gen S L Narasimhan and comprised members from ministries of defence, home affairs and external affairs while the Myanmar delegation was led by Commander, North West Command, Maj Gen Min Naung. India and Myanmar have strengthened border cooperation that has yielded results for both sides. It’s largely this cooperation that has helped in maling the hills of the northeast quiet.
Swaraj’s visit comes after Myanmar cancelled the Kyaukhpyu-Kunming railway project connecting China through the Rakhine State, Magway Region, Mandalay Region and Shan State, at a cost of $20 billion. But public opposition led to the second cancellation of a Chinese project in Myanmar that had strategic implications for China. This leaves a great deal of strategic space for India to work more closely with Myanmar.