YANGON — Myanmar and India discussed incidents of terrorism and extremist-inspired violence during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goodwill visit to Myanmar this week, according to a joint statement released Wednesday.
Modi expressed his country’s support for the Myanmar government regarding the ongoing violence in northern Rakhine State, spokesperson of the Myanmar President’s Office U Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy.
“His visit has long been planned, but coincides with [violence in Rakhine State]. India itself is countering terrorism, and he showed support for Myanmar. This will help Myanmar in the international community,” said U Zaw Htay on Wednesday.
The two countries agreed that terrorism violates human rights and there should be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs, encouraged the international community to end selective and partial approaches to combating terrorism and urged the finalization and adoption of a comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by the UN General Assembly, according to the statement.
It is the policy of the government to prevent terrorism from taking root on Myanmar’s soil and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi highlighted this stance in her talks with Modi, said U Zaw Htay.
Myanmar is also cooperating with India regarding the situation of the Naga people on the border of Myanmar and India.
“Bilateral relations between India and Myanmar began before independence. There is a great deal of cooperation between two countries, and we will continue cooperating. The two countries need to accelerate their cooperation in line with bilateral agreements,” he said.
U Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy that Myanmar and India had agreed to greater cooperation in tackling terrorism after Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri declared in a 2014 video message that the group had a new branch targeting India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.
“India has its own security agencies and we have our own,” Myanmar National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun told reporters in Naypyitaw on Wednesday. “So we maintain frequent contact. India also has a national security advisor. We attend meetings together and have cooperation.”
During Modi’s visit, Myanmar and India signed 11 agreements—including three agreements with the defense ministry and one with the home affairs ministry—in the capital Naypyitaw on Wednesday.
The two countries signed agreements covering cooperation in marine security, education, culture, health, the development of Rakhine State, and the establishment of an international-standard hospital in Naypyitaw.
“We are friendly neighbors and cooperating in various sectors. The two countries are discussing to cooperate in defense, science and technology and health, and have signed agreements in the pharmaceutical and trade sectors. We also discussed India’s purchase of beans and pulses from our country,” said U Thaung Tun.
The two governments signed an agreement for a cultural exchange program under which India will provide assistance to renovate whitewashed murals at Ananda Temple in Bagan at a cost of US$4 million.
Another agreement for further assistance in maintaining ancient religious structures in Bagan is likely to be signed soon, said Union minister for Religious Affairs and Culture Thura U Aung Ko, who added that India’s diplomatic support for Myanmar was “invaluable.”
“While international community is misled by one-sided allegations about the western side of Myanmar, [Modi’s] trip will bring great diplomatic support for the righteousness of Myanmar,” said Thura U Aung Ko.
The Myanmar government and members of the public have accused international figures and media of being biased on reporting on violence in Rakhine State.
After several meetings in Naypyitaw, Modi met with the Hindu community in Yangon on Wednesday evening.
Secretary Dr Hla Tun of the Thanantara Dhammapalaka (Hindu) Association who attended the meeting told The Irrawaddy over the phone on Thursday morning that about 7,000 Hindus joined the event at Thuwana football stadium.
The Indian Prime Minister addressed the crowd for around 50 minutes and highlighted the historical background of India and bilateral relations between Myanmar and India.
Before his official visit to Myanmar, Mr. Modi said that his country would deport from India nearly 40,000 self-identifying Rohingya refugees.
On October 25, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked 30 border outposts in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathaedaung townships, displacing 20,000 non-Muslims
Dozens of Hindus were reportedly killed by Muslim militants.
The Hindu Association condemned the violent attacks by militants and urged the government to investigate.
Dr. Hla Tun speculated that “the attacks on Hindus were likely in response to Modi as he mentioned Rohingya deportation before the visit.”