With the issue of Rohingya Muslims stalking both the countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said India shared Myanmar’s concerns over the situation in Rakhine state and the loss of lives of security personnel and innocent people in the violence blamed on insurgents from the minority community.
After talks with Myanmar’s state Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Modi hoped that whether in the peace process or resolving a “specific problem”, all the stakeholders can work together to find a solution that will ensure peace, justice and dignity for all by respecting the unity and territorial integrity of Myanmar.
The Prime Minister, however, did not mention anything about alleged human rights violations against the Rohingyas, tens of thousands of who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, with many thousands spilling over to India.
“We are partners in your concerns over the loss of lives of security forces and innocent people due to the extremist violence in Rakhine state,” Modi said in a joint address to the media with Suu Kyi following the delegation-level talks between the two sides here.
“Be it the large peace process or be it to resolve a specific problem, we hope that all the stakeholders can work together in the direction to find such a solution that will ensure peace, justice and dignity for all by respecting the unity and territorial integrity of Myanmar,” he said.
Suu Kyi is under mounting international pressure to stop the alleged atrocities against the Rohingyas, who are even denied citizenship in Myanmar.
Thousands of Rohingyas are crossing over into Bangladesh — where they are sparingly given refugee status — to escape from 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.
Modi also lauded Suu Kyi for her courageous leadership in the Myanmar peace process and said India fully understood the challenges she was faced with.
“I believe that India’s democratic experience is also relevant for Myanmar. And therefore we are proud of our comprehensive cooperation in the capacity building of the institutions like the executive, the legislature, Election Commission and Press Council,” he said, adding that as neighbours, both countries’ security interests were the same.
He said both countries should work together for peace and stability along the land and maritime borders. India shares a 1,600-km-long land border with Myamnar.
Modi said that work on building roads and bridges, energy links and connectivity would ensure a better future for both countries.
“We have completed the work on the Sittwe port and Paletwa Inland Waterways Terminal in Kaladan project,” he noted and added that work on the road component of the project has also started.
The project is designed to link Sittwe port in Myanmar, which India helped develop, with the the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram.
“In order to meet the requirement of Upper Myanmar, two-way movement of high speed diesel trucks has started from India,” Modi said.
Appreciating the two countries’ development partnership in the areas of health, education and research, he said: “In this context, Myanmar Institute of Information Technology and Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education are worthy of special mention.”
The Prime Minister also said that future Indian projects would be in line with Myanmar’s needs and priorities.
Modi said that India would issue gratis visas to all Myanmar citizens wishing to visit India, and announced that 40 Myanmar nationals lodged in Indian jails would be released.
On her part, Suu Kyi thanked India for the strong stand it took against the threat of terrorism on Myanmar’s soil.
“Together we will ensure that terror is not allowed to take roots in our country, on our soil or in our neighbouring countries,” she said, adding that peace and stability were most important for development.
“There are so many areas that India has been helping us since our government came to power,” Suu Kyi said. “India is helping us a lot in capacity building.”
Following Wednesday’s talks, India and Myanmar signed 11 agreements, including on cooperation in maritime security and coastal surveillance.
Modi arrived here on Tuesday on a three-day visit on his first bilateral trip. He had earlier come here in 2014 to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-India Summit.