India and Myanmar are natural partners: Singh

Nay Pyi Taw: Describing India and Myanmar as "natural partners", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tonight suggested using the huge untapped potential of the economic relationship between the two countries for mutual benefit. In a speech at a banquet hosted in his honour by Myanmar President Thein Sein here, Singh said the talks between the two countries earlier today and the agreements signed "have put in place a roadmap for the rapid development of our relations in the years ahead".

"This will build on the firm foundations laid during your highly successful visit to India last year", he said referring Sein`s visit to New Delhi in October last year. The Prime Minister said "India and Myanmar are natural partners linked by geography and history" and "there are many areas where our two countries can enhance cooperation to our mutual benefit." He pointed out that Myanmar, with its "unique" geographic location, can be a bridge linking South and South East Asia to East Asia and there is much untapped potential in our economic relationship."

Singh, who meets opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi tomorrow, commended Thein Sein for initiating major political reforms in Myanmar after decades of often ruthless military rule, in a move that saw release of many political prisoners, easing of media censorship and allowed her National League for Democracy party to contest and win parliamentary byelections.

"The people of Myanmar have shown great vision in embarking on a journey of national reconciliation and transition. This has been made possible largely by your vision and statesmanship", the Prime Minister said adding "the people of India stand ready to support your efforts to create a democratic, stable and prosperous Myanmar."

Singh suggested the two countries "promote more exchanges among our parliamentarians, academics, scientists, artists and intellectuals as there is so much we can rediscover and learn from each other`s culture and society."

Driving the home the point about the shared destiny of India and Myanmar, Singh recalled Jawaharlal Nehru`s remarks on the occasion of Myanmar`s independence in 1948 that "as in the past, so in the future, the people of India will stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Burma and whether we have to share good fortune or ill fortune, we shall share it together".