The burning issue of the Rohingyas and India’s capacity building measures and infrastructure projects are expected to figure during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day visit to Myanmar starting on Tuesday following the conclusion of the BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China.
This is Modi’s first bilateral visit to India’s eastern neighbour. He had visited Myanmar in 2014 to attend the Asean-India Summit.
Soon after his arrival in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday, Modi will call on Myanmarese President U Htin Kyaw at whose invitation he is going.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister will hold bilateral discussions with Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also the country’s Foreign Minister and Minister of President’s Office following which a number of agreements are expected to be signed.
Both Kyaw and Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi had visited India last year after the National League for Democracy assumed power in that country.
Modi will also visit Bagan, a heritage city where the Archaeological Survey of India is involved in restoration work of a temple and some pagodas, and Yangon where he will interact with members of the Indian community.
“During the visit, we will review developments in our bilateral relations, especially the extensive programme of development cooperation and socio-economic assistance that India is undertaking in Myanmar, and explore new areas in which we can work together,” Modi said in a pre-departure statement here.
“We will also look at strengthening our existing cooperation on security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, skill development, infrastructure and energy, and culture,” he said.
India has committed grant-in-aid assistance amounting to Rs 4,000 crore to Myanmar, out of a total commitment of around $1.7 billion.
The projects include the Kaladan Multimodal Transport Project connecting Sittwe port in Myanmar with the northeast Indian state of Mizoram, a trilateral highway connecting northeastern India with Myanmar and Thailand, and the Rhi-Tiddim road.
In terms of capacity building, New Delhi is assisting the eastern neighbour in setting up institutions of higher learning like the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology, Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education, Myanmar-India Entrepreneurship Development Centre, Myanmar-India Centre for English Language Training and India-Myanmar Industrial Training Centres.
India has also provided humanitarian relief following natural calamities like Cyclone Mora this year, Komen in 2015 and Nargis in 2008 and an earthquake in Shan state in 2010.
In a media briefing here ahead of Modi’s visit, Sripriya Ranganathan, Joint Secretary (Bangladesh and Myanmar) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said that both sides would take stock of the ongoing infrastructure projects and also discuss the kind of projects which the new Myanmarese government has on its priority list and which they would like to partner India with in the process of execution.
“We will be guided by the government of Myanmar in terms of the choice of projects,” Ranganthan said.
“The stated priorities of this government are infrastructure, power and energy and we believe these could be the areas where there is a great deal that Indian agencies can bring to the table.”
With both countries sharing a 1,600-km long boundary, the issue of security cooperation is also expected to come up for discussion.
The issue of Rohingyas on whom the Myanmarese security forces have launched a crackdown in the country’s Rakhine state is expected to figure in the discussions. India has said that it would deport all Rohingyas living here illegally but the Supreme Court has said that it will hear on September 11 a plea seeking a direction to the Central government not to deport about 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees back to Myanmar.
In her media briefing, Ranganathan said that there was no change in India’s long stated policy on refugees.
“In so far as illegal immigrants are concerned, that is again a very long standing and established procedure on the basis of Indian law which we will continue to follow,” she said.