Friday, October 14, 2011

Thein Sein Indian Visit - October 2011

Before I begin, I like to quote one of the best quotes from an Indian babu - Harshvardhan Shringala - Joint Secretary External Affairs.
"The last thing you want to do is wag your finger at a country publicly,Try doing that with your children, let alone a fellow nation."

If you casually browse through a spate of articles written about Burma written out in the Wild Wild West, a common thread you are bound to notice is that Burma is changing. The change that is talked about is Burma becoming more "democratic". There are noises about a national reconciliation. West and India are definitely concerned about China, so every attempt is made by them to wean Burma away from China. It is easier said than done.

Aung San Suu Kyi &  Thein Sein in August 2011

Rumors are that India will play a key role in influencing American and Europe ease sanctions on Burma.
Dr Singh's most influential advisers suggested New Delhi could play a key role in "encouraging the U.S and Europe to begin dismantling their long-standing policy of isolating and sanctioning Burma."
One more rumor reiterating the above point of India playing an important role.
What Thein Sein presumably wants, apart from increased trade, is for Delhi to bang the drum for the dropping of sanctions against his country – a message that sounds much better to Western ears coming from democratic India than it does coming from authoritarian China. The Indians swiftly obliged, with external affairs ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash speaking of India’s ‘distaste for sanctions (which) do not serve the desired purpose.’ India can now be expected to crank up the volume on its pro-Burma arguments and to start telling the United States and Europe especially to annul sanctions.

India is giving the middle finger to China, sort of. Why? Well President of Vietnam - Truong Tan Sang, President of Burma - Thein Sein and Prime Minister of Nepal - Baburam Bhattrai are visiting India in October 2011. Vietnam stands solid behind India, so I think. One has to consider this against the backdrop of Burma suspending the construction of China backed Myitsone dam project on upper Irrawaddy river.

Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang, center, with his wife, left,
and Pratibha Patil, India’s president, right in New Delhi on Oct.12.

After landing in India with a 69 member delegation, Sein went on a pilgrimage visiting Gaya and Sarnath. He also dashed to Kushinagar - the place associated with Buddha's nirvana. He is slated to visit Aakashardham temple in New Delhi on Friday. India owes a lot to Buddha, for it is because of him South East Asia will  have a soft corner for India.

Thein Sein with his wife Daw Khin Khin Win
at Mahabodhi Temple in Gaya.

Times of India reports India is deepening economic ties with Burma. In 2010-11 the bilateral trade stood at $1.071 billion with Burma and India's exports at $876.91 million and $194.92 million respectively.
India on Thursday declared its intent to deepen economic engagement with Yangon by setting 2013-14 as the deadline for completing Sittwe port. It is a landmark project that will act as a trade gateway for India's north-eastern states to Southeast Asia.
Expressing Yangon's keenness to expand ties with India across the spectrum, 13 senior ministers handling key portfolios are accompanying Thein Sein to India. Several pacts in areas related to economy and infrastructure development are expected to be signed after the talks. 
This is how far Sittwe port is from Kolkota. The distance to Kolkota through the Silguri corridor from the Seven Sister states is 932 miles, and it takes over a week through the Himalayan roads. The work on Sittwe port is to give the North Eastern Indian States an access to the ocean.

Some noteworthy agreements and deals:
  1. India has extended $500 million credit. 
  2. Pact to upgrade Yangon Children's Hospital and Sittwe General Hospital.
  3. Programme of Cooperation in Science and Technology for the period of 2012-2015
  4. Burma reiterated that its soil would not be used for anti-India activities. Manmohan Singh and Thein Sein agreed on enhancing effective cooperation and coordination between the security forces to thwart terrorist activities and counter insurgencies.
  5. The leaders agreed to improve the cooperation in Oil and Gas exploration. Essentially Burma will encourage Indian private and public companies to invest in the energy sectors.
  6. Burma expresses interest to reopen Stilwell Road.
  7. Bilateral trade target set to $3billion by 2015.

Thein Sein inspecting Guard of Honour

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