Manmohan, Thein Sein embark on ‘new journey’

By Rahul Dass, IANS,

Nay Pyi Taw : India and Myanmar have “embarked on a new journey of bilateral cooperation”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told President Thein Sein here Monday during wide-ranging talks that saw the two countries ink a dozen agreements, including a $500 million credit line.

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Manmohan Singh held talks with Thein Sein on tackling terror and expanding trade on the second day of his three-day visit – the first by an Indian prime minister in 25 years.

The prime minister, who landed here Sunday, told Thein Sein at the 100-room presidential palace here that India was committed to strengthening its “economic and development partnership with Myanmar”.

According to external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, the prime minister also commended Thein Sein, credited with introducing dramatic reforms in Myanmar, for the changes he was bringing about.

“We wish you all success in your nation building efforts and changes you are bringing about,” he said.

In a series of messages put out on the microblogging site Twitter, the prime minister was quoted as saying that “capacity building” was a “major priority” of the development assistance programme.

After the talks, which an official described as “warm and cordial”, India and Myanmar signed 12 agreements.

These included a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on a $500 million credit line between Export-Import Bank of India and the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank as well as pacts on India-Myanmar border area development and on air services.

There were MoUs to set up the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology and the Advance Centre for Agriculture Research and Education, Yezin Agriculture University.

A rice bio park, establishing border ‘haats’ and setting up a joint trade and investment forum were covered as well.

India and Myanmar entered into an agreement of cooperation between the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and the Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS).

Besides, there were pacts between Calcutta University and Dagon University, Yangon, and between the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and MISIS.

India-Myanmar trade is currently pegged at just $1.2 billion. New Delhi is looking at doubling it by 2015.

The late Rajiv Gandhi was the last Indian prime minister to visit Myanmar in 1987.

On Tuesday, Manmohan Singh flies to Yangon where he meets pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

(Rahul Dass can be contacted at [email protected])