Indian corporate honchos meet with Myanmar Prez

Nay Pyi Taw: As Myanmar heads for an economic resurgence with the global economic sanctions dissipating following surprising political reforms, Indian corporate honchos today met President Thein Sein here during which he invited investments from India in a range of sectors. At the government level talks headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Sein, the two countries set a target of doubling bilateral trade from USD 1.4 billion in another three years.

Emerging from the over an hour long meeting with President Sein, Sunil Bharti Mittal, group CEO of Bharti Enterprises and a member of the 22-member Indian business delegation here, said Myanmar, with a population of six crore and untapped resources, offered huge opportunities to Indian companies as Myanmarese economy is opening up. He told Indian journalists covering the Prime Minister`s historic visit, that the President explained the opportunities that would be available in almost all sectors of Myanmar economy, including natural gas and telecom, and invited Indian private sector to invest in his country.

Mittal said he requested the President to allow international roaming facility across Myanmar as a first step to attract investments in telecom sector. According to Mittal, as Myanmar was moving down the path of political reform and moving towards opening up its economy, "this is the right time for Indian companies" to explore the potential of this country. While acknowledging that China had entered Myanmar in a big way and much before India, Mittal said he did not think "India has missed the bus".

Industrialist Naveen Jindal said Myanmar is just opening up politically and economically to the world and most of sanctions imposed by Western countries had been withdrawn and the Prime Minister`s visit at this juncture "would go a long way in opening the doors for Indian companies to take advantage in this country". When pointed out that China had made inroads into Myanmar long before India did, he said "while that is true, it is not too late even now because of the changed situation in this country".

Jindal said India has a "lot of catching up to do" vis-a-vis China in terms of its economic engagement with Myanmar but Indian companies have competitive advantages because of proximity to Myanmar and "religious and cultural" affinities. "For India, it`s late but not too late", he opined. Both Singh and Sein encouraged Indian companies to invest in Myanmar`s oil and gas sectors including in available blocs.

At a time when Myanmar faces acute power shortage of electricity that saw four days of street protests in Mandalay and Yangon last week, President Sein appreciated India for undertaking the preparation of Detailed Project Reports of Tamanthi and Shwezaye hydropower projects. Only 13 per cent of Myanmar`s population has access to electricity, according to the International Monetary Fund. The two leaders urged Indian companies in areas like port, highways, plantation, manufacturing, hospitality and Information and Communication Technology to invest in Myanmar and a MoU was signed to set up a Trade and Investment Forum.

They assured that both the governments would work to identify and remove various impediments to bilateral trade and agreed to have a representative office of the United Bank of India in Yangon as a first step in facilitating business-friendly banking transactions between the two countries. Myanmar welcomed the proposals for the training of Myanmar officials in banking sector by Indian banks and for cooperation in the Agriculture Banking sector

Considering the vast potential for promoting trade between the two countries, both sides agreed that the Reserve Bank of India would sign an MoU with the Central Bank of Myanmar on currency arrangements between India and Myanmar in near future. Taking into account the needs of communities residing near the border, the two leaders welcomed the decision to set up border haats along the border and the MOU was signed for this purpose.