Burma, India Agree to Cooperate on Defense, Energy, Infrastructure

By Tin Htet Paing 30 August 2016

RANGOON — Burma and India have inked four memorandums of understanding (MoU) to promote bilateral cooperation in the areas of traditional medicine, renewable energy and infrastructural connectivity.

Burmese President U Htin Kyaw oversaw the agreements during a four-day visit to India from August 27-30. In a joint statement released on Monday, after the MoU signing ceremony, the two sides pledged to strengthen security and defense cooperation along the border, and develop infrastructure and prosperity in border areas.

The Burmese President held “wide-ranging” discussions with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on “bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest,” according to the joint statement.

U Htin Kyaw’s visit followed the visit of Burma’s State Counselor and Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to China, August 17-21, which attracted substantially more media attention and commentary.

The four MoUs signed by respective ministers from the two countries concerned cooperation in the areas of “traditional systems of medicine,” renewable energy, and the construction or upgrading of bridges and road stretches along the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa and Kalewa-Yagyi sections of the Trilateral Highway connecting Moreh in northeast India to Mae Sot in Thailand, via Burma.

During the visit, the two sides reiterated their “shared commitment to fight the scourge of terrorism and insurgent activity in all its forms and manifestations,” and uphold “the policy of not allowing any insurgent groups to use their soil for hostile activities against the other side,” according to the joint statement.

India’s Prime Minister Modi remarked at the joint press conference on Monday that Burma holds a unique position as a “land bridge that connects India with Southeast Asia,” and highlighted Burma’s “new era” of democratic leadership and the “commitment of your people to democracy.”

“[Burma’s] President and I agreed to work together for the safety and security of our people,” Modi said, “and actively cooperate to combat the common challenges of terrorism and insurgent activity in our region.”

“Let me assure you that, at every step of the way, the 1.25 billion people of India will stand by you—both as partners and as friends.

President U Htin Kyaw said his visit was aimed at “enhancing traditional ties of friendship” between the two governments and people. He said cultural and academic exchange between the two countries should be strengthened.

“Greater bilateral cooperation between India and [Burma] is required to promote inclusive growth and development and to contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in both countries and in the region as a whole,” U Htin Kyaw said.

India offered to share its experience of parliamentary governance, and of power and resource sharing between national and state-level governments—at a time when a transition to federalism is being discussed as part of peace negotiations in Burma.

Burma also invited Indian companies to bid for tenders in the petrochemical and petroleum sector.

According to the joint statement, the two countries have agreed to begin operating facilities connected to the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which now links Sittwe in Arakan State with Paletwa in Chin State, by December 2016.