India’s foreign minister heads to Myanmar to boost bilateral trade, security ties

NEW DELHI – India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna headed to Myanmar on Monday as New Delhi reaffirmed its commitment to bilateral and strategic co-operation with Yangon’s newly elected nominally civilian government.

Krishna will be the first high level official from India to visit Myanmar since the elected government replaced the previous junta in March.

India and Myanmar have developed deep economic and security ties over the past decade. New Delhi has said it believes talking quietly is a better approach in dealing with Yangon’s military-backed rulers rather than sanctions.

Despite Western criticism, India shifted its policy from supporting Myanmar’s democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to engaging the junta’s generals.

On Monday, Krishna ducked a question on whether he would be meeting Suu Kyi during his three day visit.

“I don’t know if I will get a chance to interact with other leaders during my brief stay in Yangon,” he said.

India is also wary of China’s growing influence in Myanmar, and is in competition with its regional rival for access to the country’s large natural gas resources.

Krishna’s discussions with his Myanmarese counterpart would include security issues and co-operation in the fields of information technology, industry and infrastructure development in the isolated South Asian country.

India and Myanmar have expanded co-operation between their security forces since the mid-1990s with both countries fighting armed insurgencies along their shared border.

India says separatist rebels in its northeastern states often slip across the 1,000-mile- (1,600-kilometre-) long porous border with Myanmar and take shelter in jungle bases there.

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