India, Myanmar discuss bilateral issues, sign seven agreements

New Delhi: India and Myanmar discussed a range of bilateral issues and signed seven agreements during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s two-day visit to the country that concluded on Friday.

During the visit, Sushma Swaraj called on Myanmar President U Win Myint, State Counsellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Defence Forces Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

According to a statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry here, during the bilateral meetings, boundary and border related issues, peace and security matters, developments in the Rakhine State, including return of displaced Rohingya persons, India’s development assistance to Myanmar, ongoing projects, and other issues of mutual interest were discussed.

The seven agreements signed included one on land border crossing, memorandums of understanding (MoU) on restoration and preservation of earthquake-damaged Pagodas in Bagan, assistance to the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee, training of Myanmar foreign service officers, setting up an Industrial Training Centre (ITC) at Monywa, and ITC at Thaton and exchange of letters on extending a maintenance contract for ITC Myingyan.

According to the ministry statement, the agreement on land border crossing “is a landmark in bilateral relations between the two countries as it will enable people from both countries to cross the land border with passport and visa, including for accessing health and education services, pilgrimage and tourism”.

“The MoU on restoration of pagodas at Bagan underlines the enduring cultural and historical links between the two countries,” it stated.

“The other MoUs on technical assistance and capacity building reflect India’s continuing support to Myanmar in accordance with this country’s own development plans and priorities.”

India is a key development aid partner for Myanmar and is implementing a number of infrastructure projects in that country.

These include the a transport project connecting Mizoram with Sittwe port in Myanmar, the Trilateral Highway connecting India with Myanmar and Thailand and the Rhi-Tiddim road.

According to the statement, Sushma Swaraj also reiterated India’s readiness and commitment to helping the Myanmar government in addressing issues related to Rakhine State in the wake of the Rohingya reugee crisis.

She welcomed the Myanmatr government’s “continued commitment to implementing the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations and noted that, under the aegis of the bilateral Rakhine State Development Programme, India was already in the implementation stages of various projects that would respond to the needs of different sections of the Rakhine State population”.

“The first major project is the construction of prefabricated housing in Rakhine State to meet the needs of displaced persons,” it stated.

“The Minister also underlined the need for safe, speedy and sustainable return of displaced persons to Rakhine State.”

Sushma Swaraj’s visit is part of the ongoing high-level interaction between India and Myanmar after that country got a democratic government in 2016 and can also be seen in the context of India’s increasing engagements with southeast Asia under New Delhi’s Act East Policy.

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