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India offers development aid to Myanmar’s Rakhine

India has committed development assistance to Rakhine state in Myanmar where large-scale violence blamed on the minority Rohingya Muslim community has claimed the lives of security personnel and innocent people and triggered a mass exodus, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said on Wednesday.

“I would particularly draw attention to the fact that we have discussed committing Indian assistance to the Rakhine state development programme because we really believe that the medium term way of addressing problems in the Rakhine area is really to look at developmental aspect,” Jaishankar said while briefing media persons following delegation-level talks led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi here earlier in the day.

“So, we made an in-principle commitment,” he said, adding that the modalities in that regard will be worked out.

Thousands of Rohingyas are crossing over into Bangladesh — where they are sparingly given refugee status — to escape the violence in Rakhine state. Media reports quoted the UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh as saying that at least 123,000 Rohingyas have crossed over in the past few days.

The latest exodus began on August 25, after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts in Rakhine, leading to a violent offensive by the Myanmar Army.

India also faces the problem of Rohingyas fleeing into the states bordering Myanmar. The government has said it would deport all Rohingyas living in India 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 such refugees back to Myanmar.

According to a joint statement issued following Wednesday’s talks, India and Myanmar shared the view that the situation in Rakhine state had a developmental as well as a security dimension.

“In this context, they agreed to bring about overall socio-economic development in the State by undertaking both infrastructure and socio-economic projects, particularly in the spheres of education, health, agriculture and allied activities, agro-processing, community development, construction of small bridges, upgradation of roads, small power projects, livelihood activity, setting up of training centres, promotion of household crafts, conservation of environment and cultural heritage,” the statement said.

“Myanmar welcomed India’s offer of assistance under the Rakhine State Development Programme and the two sides agreed to finalise the implementation modalities within the next few months.”

Jaishankar also said that India has become for its neighbours an important partner for energy supplies.

“We are looking at fuel, we are looking at power transmission, we are looking at solar, we are looking at LED,” he said.

On the capacity building side, the Foreign Secretary said India has built industrial training centres, entrepreneurship development centres, and English language training centres.

“During this visit. I think we heard very strong appreciation of what we have done. The Prime Minister agreed that we would open two more industrial training centres in the near future in Myanmar,” he said

On the agriculture side, he said India would be scaling up agricultural training.

In the health care sector, the Foreign Secretary said India has upgraded three hospitals in Myanmar, including in Yangon and Sittwe.

“We have now committed to building a hospital at Nay Pyi Taw. That is a new commitment that has come out of this visit,” he said.

Modi arrived here on Tuesday on a three-day visit on his first bilateral trip to Myanmar. He had earlier come here in 2014 to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-India Summit.

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