To counter China’s bullying, India offers to stand by Myanmar ‘at every step’

Signalling the importance of ties with Myanmar, PM Narendra Modi said on Monday India will stand by Myanmar “every step of the way” as a partner and that the two countries recognise that their security interests are closely aligned.

The first high-level contact after Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) took over saw Modi assuring Myanmar President Htin Kyaw that India will remain a reliable partner in pursuing security and development goals.

The two countries reiterated their commitment not to allow insurgent groups to use their soil for hostile activities, an agreement seen in the light of operations against insurgent groups who have in the past set up safe havens on Myanmarese territory and have hit targets in the northeast.

In an important reference, Modi said, “I have also conveyed India’s full support to the peace process initiative under the ‘21st-century Panglong conference’.” This is an initiative by Suu Kyi to bring three armed rebel groups to the negotiating table with China’s help.

China has had a key role in pushing groups it has armed to join a peace conference in a bid to strike a rapport with Suu Kyi. But its actions are seen to be driven by both a concern over the rise in smuggling and an attempt to grab a stake in building roads and railways in northern Myanmar.

Recognising that Myanmar must be mindful of China’s clout with rebels and its economic muscle, India is looking to present itself as an ally whose interests are truly in synergy with Myanmar in areas of security and development.

 The two nations also agreed to work towards a long-term, mutually beneficial arrangement for trade in pulses.

Myanmar is one of the few countries in a position to export large quantities of pulses.

Looking to deepen ties with Myanmar, a theatre of geopolitical competition between India and China, Modi said India was ready to increase power supply to Myanmar, pointing to specific areas of cooperation like the Kaladan project, the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway, an IT institute and an advanced centre of agricultural research and other initiatives in health, education and industrial training.
India and Myanmar signed four MoUs in connectivity, medicine and renewable energy. Pacts were signed to help in building and upgrading close to 70 bridges and the Kalewa-Yargi road section of the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway.

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