Myanmar and India Sign Ten Deals During State Visit

By Nyein Nyein 28 February 2020

Myanmar and India have signed 10 agreements, including five memorandums of understanding (MoUs), during President U Win Myint’s four-day state visit to India.

The leaders discussed numerous bilateral and international issues, according to a joint statement.

The president was welcomed by his Indian counterpart, Ram Nath Kovind, at the presidential palace, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on Thursday and by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House.

He was accompanied by the ministers for international cooperation U Kyaw Tin, religious affairs and culture Thura U Aung Ko, transport and communications U Thant Sin Maung and the chief minister of Rakhine State, U Nyi Pu, and departmental heads from the Office of the President and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The joint statement said the visit “reinforced the tradition of high-level interactions, symbolizing the strong friendly relations existing between the two neighbours”. The countries share a land border of more than 1,600 km as well as a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.

The statement read: “They emphasized that regular high-level interactions have added momentum to the bilateral relations. They welcomed the synergies between Myanmar’s independent, active and non-aligned foreign policy and India’s ‘Act East’ and ‘Neighbourhood First’ policies, and reaffirmed their commitments to further strengthen partnership, explore new avenues of cooperation to expand bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of the two countries and peoples.”

Deals were signed on enhancing cooperation on bilateral energy, trade, development, defense and maritime security and combating terrorism and violent extremism.

Five MoUs signed involve cooperation over petroleum products; cooperation to prevent people trafficking, cooperation on timber trafficking and conservation of tigers and other wildlife.

There was also an MoU between India’s Ministry of Communication and Myanmar’s Ministry of Transport and Communications and another on health research between the Indian Council of Medical Research and Myanmar’s Department of Medical Research, under the Ministry of Health and Sports.

The statement said: “India and Myanmar agreed to cooperate in the field of petroleum products … for cooperation in refining, stockpiling, blending and retail through a government-to-government memorandum of understanding.”

To boost economic cooperation and tourism, both sides agreed to work together to launch the Indian RuPay card in Myanmar and an India-Myanmar digital payment gateway for cross-border remittances.

They agreed to construct a modern check post at Tamu, a border town in Sagaing Region which faces Moreh in the Indian state of Manipur.

The visit deepened defense and maritime security cooperation, building on an agreement signed last year.

The statement said: “Emphasizing the importance of building a comprehensive legal framework for addressing mutual concerns on matters related to security, the two sides agreed to continue negotiations on various pending treaties, such as the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Civil and Commercial Matters and the Extradition Treaty.”

India reaffirmed its support for Myanmar’s democratic transition, peace process and moves to establish a democratic, federal union.

The Indian leadership reiterated its commitment to support Myanmar’s efforts to promote peace, stability and the socio-economic development in Rakhine State through the Rakhine State Development Program. India provided support for prefabricated houses and relief materials for displaced communities in northern Rakhine during 2019.

Both sides agreed to strengthen development cooperation under the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation agreement.

“They welcomed the signing of the agreement on Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of Quick Impact Projects during the state visit,” said the joint statement.

India praised Myanmar’s cooperation in enabling the movement of project personnel and construction materials and equipment for the construction of the road in Paletwa in Chin State, which is part of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (known as the Kaladan project) across the Mizoram border.

Paletwa Township and adjacent northern Rakhine State have seen heavy fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army (AA) since clashes began in late 2018.

Last year, the AA disrupted the movement of project materials along the Kaladan River.

The rebel army kidnapped Indian employees traveling by boat from Paletwa to Kyauktaw along with a National League for Democracy parliamentarian late last year. An Indian man died during the incident.

River transport was closed earlier this month as fighting increased between the AA and Myanmar’s military.

Despite the instability, both leaders “reaffirmed their commitment to the early completion of the Paletwa-Zorinpui road – the final leg of the Kaladan project”.

The road would connect Sittwe’s port to northeastern India, boosting economic development and helping to tackle poverty, the statement said.

On Feb. 1 a port operator was appointed to operate the Sittwe Port and Paletwa Inland Water Transport Terminal.

Both sides said they would cooperate on boundary demarcation and complete several India-funded projects in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s delegation will also visit Bodh Gaya, where Buddha gained enlightenment, and the Taj Mahal.

There have been repeated high-level visits between the neighbors in recent years.

U Win Myint visited India in May last year for Modi’s oath-taking ceremony after his re-election victory. Also in May, India’s defense secretary Sanjay Mitra visited Myanmar.

In December 2018, Ram Nath Kovind visited Myanmar to promote India’s Indo-Pacific strategy and signed several agreements. In January 2018, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visited India for the 25th India-Asean Commemorative Summit.

Modi also visited Naypyitaw in November 2014 and September 2017 for Asean summits.

Then Myanmar president, U Htin Kyaw, and the State Counselor met Modi during their separate visits to India in late 2016.

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