The visit comes on the heel of India-Myanmar Foreign Office Consultations which was held through virtual mode on October 1. The Indian delegation was led by the Foreign Secretary and the Myanmar delegation was led by Permanent Secretary, U Soe Han.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, few direct exchanges have taken place between the two sides. This visit will provide an opportunity to take stock of the existing bilateral ties and strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest. This will also be the second foreign visit of FS Shringla after his recent travel to another important neighbour Bangladesh last month.
“India attaches high priority to its relationship with Myanmar in accordance with its ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies. In recent times, both sides have strengthened their cooperation in several areas, including connectivity and trade, development projects, energy, capacity building, defence and security and culture, and people to people links,” said a press statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs. “Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, few direct exchanges have taken place between the two sides. This visit will provide an opportunity to take stock of the existing bilateral ties and strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest,” the release added further.
During the Foreign Office Consultation, the Foreign Secretary had reiterated the priority India attaches to its partnership with Myanmar in accordance with India’s ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies. He stated that India remained committed to enhancing its multifaceted cooperation with Myanmar and also to explore new avenues of cooperation.
The Permanent Secretary of Myanmar expressed appreciation for the COVID-related and development assistance extended by India to Myanmar and reaffirmed Myanmar’s commitment to further strengthen its time-tested partnership with India for the mutual benefit of the two countries. Both sides also reviewed the entire gamut of relations, including border cooperation and upgradation of border infrastructure, status of India’s ongoing development projects in Myanmar, trade and investment ties, power and energy cooperation, consular matters and cultural cooperation, including the ongoing restoration work on earthquake-damaged pagodas in Bagan.
India and Myanmar are also slated to hold the next Joint Trade Committee Ministerial Meeting on October 20 to further strengthen bilateral trade and investment relations. India enjoys close and friendly ties with both Bangladesh and Myanmar, who have been having differences over the issues of Rohingya refugees Bangladesh and their early repatriation to Rakhine State in Myanmar. India has a deep and abiding interest to see an early stabilization of the situation in the Rakhine State. India has maintained that it supports safe, sustainable, and speedy repatriation of displaced persons from Bangladesh to Rakhine State based on the understanding between Bangladesh and Myanmar. India has committed humanitarian efforts in both Myanmar and Bangladesh to facilitate an early return of the displaced persons. It has also provided 5 tranches of relief supplies to Bangladesh so far.
The issue of Rohingya was also discussed during the sixth meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) on 29th Sept. The meeting was co-chaired by EAM S Jaishakar and His Bangladeshi Counterpart A. K. Abdul Momen. A joint statement released after the meeting said that the two Ministers reiterated the importance of the safe, speedy and sustainable return to Myanmar of the forcibly displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar, currently being sheltered by Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh Foreign Minister emphasized, “Unless the problem is resolved quickly, there are possibilities of pockets of radicalism disrupting economic growth, peace, and stability in the region and requested India’s leverage, to address the crisis.” India has been extending socio-economic development assistance for projects pertaining to health, education, agriculture, and allied activities to Rakhine State through a grant-in-aid of USD 5 million per annum. All these efforts are aimed at ensuring an early return of displaced persons to Rakhine State in Myanmar.
By Abhishek Jha