India said on Friday that it has not changed its policy on refugees or illegal immigrants and the issues concerning Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar has several aspects.
“As to refugee policy, I don’t think there is any change in India’s long-stated policy. Insofar as illegal immigrants are concerned, that is also a very long-stated policy and based on Indian law which we will continue to follow. There is absolutely no change,” Sripriya Ranganathan, Joint Secretary, Bangladesh and Myanmar, in the Ministry of External Affairs told the media here in response to a question about the Rohingyas.
At a special press conference along with External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to Myanmar and China, she said the Rohingya situation in Myamnar’s Rakhine state had a variety of aspects – developmental, humanitarian and security aspect.
A report prepared by a committee headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan which had correctly highlighted these, she said.
“What we have been trying to do, ever since the problem acquired the proportions that it has is to encourage the government to find ways of stimulating socio-economic development in the area (Rakhine).
“If there is active economic activity in the state, many of the problems will be at least be reduced,” she said, adding that India was working in that direction.
Asked about last year’ surgical strikes in the northeast, she said it is very well-known that the actions that were carried out by the Indian Army were carried out along the border.
“It is a difficult border on which the exact location of boundary can sometimes be difficult to make out. I don’t think there is any misunderstanding between us and government of Myanmar on what we sought to do and what we will continue to do.
“The problem of the activities of insurgents who are trying to take advantage of this kind of geography to work against Indian interests is something which has remained a matter of discussion between leadership of two countries,” she said.
Ranganathan said there is full confidence on both sides about each other’s good intentions “and the desire to prevent any hostile activities from taking place from Myanmar soil into India”.
About Modi’s first state visit to Myanmar, she said he will arrive there on September 5 and will be accorded a ceremonial reception. He will subsequently meet President U Htin Kyaw and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
During his visit, Modi will also meet Indian community and and pay tributes at shrine of the exiled last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.
Ranganathan said important agreements in the pipeline were in sectors like maritime cooperation, health, development cooperation projects, culture and capacity building.
Noting the bilateral trade is $ 2.2 billion, she said India has invested $750 million in Myanmar by way of private and public investment and the development programme was quite sizeable with commitment of $1.75 billion, mostly by way of grants and aids.
“Myanmar is a very, very important partner for us in our Act East policy and Neigbhourhood first policy. It is our gateway to ASEAN,” she said.