India, Myanmar strengthen ties with Indian PM's visit


Visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) shakes hands with Myanmar President Thein Sein during their meeting at the president's house in Naypyidaw on May 28, 2012. India's prime minister signed a raft of deals with Myanmar on May 28 in a historic visit aimed at boosting trade and energy links and contesting the influence of regional rival China.



India signed as many as 12 bilateral agreements with Myanmar on Monday, in areas ranging from agriculture and energy to security, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A delegation led by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the agreements as part of India's "Look East" policy, deepening ties with countries in Southeast and East Asia. According to The Journal, energy-rich Myanmar could be a vital resource for India as it tries to cut down its dependence on Iran's oil, under pressure from the US.

Agence France Presse noted that the visit was aimed at boosting trade and energy ties between the countries and challenging India's regional rival, China. Singh met President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw, the capital.

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A joint statement released after the meeting said the talks were "warm, cordial and constructive." It also read: "Alluding to the mutually agreed target of doubling the bilateral trade by 2015, both leaders emphasized that there is considerable untapped potential for greater trade and urged the business community to capitalize on this potential."

India's trade with Myanmar stood at $1.2 billion in 2010, compared to $4.4 billion between China and Myanmar.

As Myanmar enacts reforms and comes out of its decades-long isolation, Singh said "stronger trade and investment links, development of border areas, improving connectivity between our two countries" were things to focus on, according to Bloomberg.

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BBC noted that Singh's visit to Myanmar, also known as Burma, was the first by an Indian premier since 1987. Around two to three million Indians live in Myanmar.

Singh was scheduled to meet opposition leader and newly elected MP Aung San Suu Kyi on his three-day visit, according to The Journal.

In a statement, Singh said, "India welcomes Myanmar’s transition to democratic governance and the steps taken by the government of Myanmar toward a more broad-based and inclusive reconciliation process," according to Bloomberg.

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