India on Wednesday shared its concerns with Myanmar over the situation in the country’s Rakhine state where the army has launched a crackdown on the Rohingyas, triggering a mass exodus.
“We share your concerns about the extremist violence in Rakhine state and violence against security forces and how innocent lives have been lost,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a joint address to the media along with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi following delegation-level talks between the two sides here.
“Whether it be the very important peace process or resolving any other special issues, we hope that all the stake holders together can find a way out in which the unity and territorial integrity of Myanmar is respected and at the same time, we can have peace, justice, dignity and democratic values for all,” he said.
Suu Kyi is under mounting international pressure to stop the alleged human rights violations against the Rohingyas, who are 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.
Meanwhile, India has said that it would deport all Rohingyas living in the country illegally but the country’s 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.
Modi also lauded Suu Kyi for her leadership in the Myanmar peace process and said India fully understood the challenges she was faced with.
“I feel that India’s democratic experience is relevant to Myanmar and therefore, in Myanmar’s executive, legislature, election commission and press council are institutions where we have comprehensive cooperation programmes in capacity building,” he stated, adding that as neighbours, both countries’ security interests were the same.
He said both countries should work together for the peace and stability along the land and maritime borders. India shares a 1,600-km-long land border with Myamnar.
He said that work on building roads and bridges, energy links and connectivity would ensure a better future for both countries.
“In the Kaladan (multimodal transport) project, work on the Sittwe port and the Paletwa Inland Waterways Terminal has been completed,” he said, adding 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.
“To meet the needs of Upper Myanmar, trucks have started transporting high speed diesel from India,” Modi said.
Appreciating India’s development partnership with Myanmar in the areas of health, education and research, he said: “In this connection, the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology and Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research deserve special mention.”
The Prime Minister also said that future Indian projects would be in line with Myanmar’s needs and priorities.
Modi also 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 in what is his first bilateral trip to India’s eastern neighbour. He had earlier come here in 2014 to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-India Summit.
Soon after his arrival here, he called on Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw at whose invitation he has come.
Later on Wednesday, the Prime Minister will also visit Bagan, a heritage city where the Archaeological Survey of India is involved in restoration work of a temple and some historical structures, and Yangon where he will interact with members of the Indian community.