Monday, September 25, 2017

Indian PM outlines cooperation vision

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is accompanied by President U Thein Sein on arrival at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw on May 28. Photo: AFPIndian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is accompanied by President U Thein Sein on arrival at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw on May 28. Photo: AFP

Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has outlined a plan for cooperation that would see India and Myanmar work together to become a hub for trade, investment and communication in the region.

“We need to work with each other and with other countries of our region to build prosperity, promote openness of thought and facilitate trade and movement of goods, people and ideas,” Dr Singh said during his address, “India and Myanmar: A Partnership for Progress and Regional Development”, in Yangon on May 29.

“Myanmar is a critical partner in India’s ‘Look East’ policy and is perfectly situated to play the role of an economic bridge between India and China and between South and Southeast Asia,” he said.

Improving communication was the best way to promote economic integration, he said.

“Our two governments have agreed to cooperate in a number of road building projects. I hope that the very symbolic Trilateral Highway that will connect India, Myanmar and Thailand can be fully built by 2016,” he said.

“India is implementing the Kaladan Multimodal Transport Project that involves upgrading the Sittwe port and constructing a highway to connect the town of Paletwa in Chin state to the Indian border in Mizoram state. This flagship project will revitalise the economy of the area and link it with important commercial and shipping arteries. We hope to complete it by 2015,” Dr Singh said.

Dr Singh’s visit was the first by an Indian leader in 25 years and included meetings with President U Thein Sein in Nay Pyi Taw and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon.

The prime minister travelled with a business delegation and investment and trade were top of the agenda during the talks with U Thein Sein and government ministers.

Twelve agreements were signed covering an array of issues, including security, development of border areas, trade and transport links. Chief among these was a US$500 million line of credit to the Myanma government for infrastructure development projects, including rail, irrigation and power generation. Direct air, shipping, rail and bus links were also discussed, while the two sides also agreed to closer cooperation on financial services.

Talks were described as “warm, cordial and constructive” in a joint statement released after the meeting.

“Alluding to the mutually agreed target of doubling the bilateral trade by 2015, both leaders emphasised that there is considerable untapped potential for greater trade and urged the business community to capitalise on this potential,” it said.

Indian trade with Myanmar stood at US$1.2 billion in 2010, far short of the $4.4 billion between China and Myanmar.

Renaud Egreteau, of the Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, said India was “realigning” its policy on Myanmar in an attempt to become its neighbour’s trading partner of choice.

“India is trying not to miss the bus in Myanmar as it opens to the world,” he said.

But he said the “obstacles are always the same for India”, including delays with its infrastructure projects and a lack of political confidence between the two countries.

Despite these “obstacles”, Dr Singh said he was confident that a 2015 trade target of $3 billion could be surpassed.

“But we need to diversify our trade basket. India can import more agricultural produce, coal and other minerals and export heavy industrial items, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and textiles,” he said.

He said the Myanmar government had invited India to assist in the development of the Naga Self Administered Zone in Sagaing Region and Chin State, including the opening of border markets to boost local economies. – With AFP