Suu Kyi Stresses Burma-India Ties in New Delhi

By Zarni Mann 14 November 2012

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who arrived in India for her first time in nearly four decades on Tuesday, said that she hopes to strengthen ties between the two countries.

“More important than India are the people of India. I believe that person-to-person relations are more important than government-to-government relations. So I hope that I will be able to bring about warmers relations between our two peoples,” she said during an interview with India’s Times Now television channel.

The Nobel Laureate was also scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later on Wednesday.

Suu Kyi arrived in India on Tuesday and immediately met with old friends and classmates from Lady Shri Ram College where she studied as a young woman. The 67-year-old said she was glad to return to India and see her old acquaintances again.

On Wednesday, Suu Kyi paid respect to Mahattama Ghadi at his Rajghat memorial as well as Jawahralal Nehru at his cremation site at Shantivana on the banks of the Yamuna River. She is also scheduled to give the Jawarharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture to mark the 123th birthday of India’s first prime minister.

“I’m going to focus on the influence that Jewaharlal Nehru’s thinking in my political life,” Suu Kyi told Times Now.

The trip is the National League for Democracy chairwoman’s first visit in almost 40 years to the country where she grew up and studied. Her mother, Khin Kyi, worked as Burmese ambassador to India in the 1960s.

India has long been a supporter of Suu Kyi and in 1992, while under house arrest, she was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding.

However, since then New Delhi has adopted a strategy of engagement with Burma’s ruling military government. As part of India’s “Look-East Policy,” the two governments forged closer links leading to criticism from Burma’s pro-democracy movement.

However, the visit of Singh to Burma in May, when he met with both reformist President Thein Sein and Suu Kyi, has been interpreted as a positive step towards healing these wounds.