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Foreign Secretary and Army chief head to Myanmar in bid to deepen ties

Top sources told The Sunday Express that the decision to send a civilian and a military official was taken at the highest level, as New Delhi feels that India needs to strengthen ties, given the security challenges along the India-Myanmar border.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: October 4, 2020 1:43:33 am
Foreign Secy and Army chief head to Myanmar in bid to deepen tiesForeign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla; Army Chief General M M Naravane

Ahead of polls in Myanmar early November, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Army chief General MM Naravane are headed to the country for a high-level meeting focussed on politico-security issues of concern. They are expected to hold meetings with their counterparts on Monday.

On the agenda is early conclusion of the Extradition Treaty, Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Civil and Commercial matters and Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, growing aerial and maritime security cooperation, economic development projects in the Rakhine state to enable the return of Rohingya, development of border region on both sides.

While Shringla has only visited Bangladesh during the Covid-19 pandemic, New Delhi’s decision to send the Foreign Secretary and the Army chief together is a signal to Myanmar’s leadership on India’s two-pronged engagement with the power centres in the civilian and military establishment.

Top sources told The Sunday Express that the decision to send a civilian and a military official was taken at the highest level, as New Delhi feels that India needs to strengthen ties, given the security challenges along the India-Myanmar border.

Explained

Border concerns behind top level visit

The decision to send a civilian and a military official was taken at the highest level, as New Delhi feels that India needs to strengthen ties, given the security challenges along the India-Myanmar border. The two sides are also expected to discuss the border development programme, which is in an advanced stage, and has seen the successful implementation of around 140 infra projects.

Shringla will meet U Soe Han, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar — they held a video-conference this week.

Gen Naravane is likely to meet Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and discuss military and security cooperation.

Sources said the ongoing security cooperation continues to be robust and the two sides have remained sensitive to each other’s security concerns.

Myanmar’s handing over of 22 Indian insurgents, sources said, has been deeply appreciated by New Delhi and “sends a strong message of deterrence to inimical elements on both sides”.

In view of their special partnership, Delhi would request early conclusion of the Extradition Treaty, Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Civil and Commercial matters and Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

As friendly neighbouring countries, they have maintained a peaceful and tranquil border, sources said, adding that they attach the highest priority to settlement of the remaining boundary issues and have proposed holding the next meeting of the Joint Boundary Working Group at the earliest. A discussion on this issue is also expected to take place.

Sources said there has been notable progress in several defence cooperation projects. In this regard, a team for the deployment of meteorological squadrons will be reaching Myanmar this month. Myanmar will also have a representative at the Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region. These indicate growing aerial and maritime security cooperation between the two countries.

On the political front, the Indian side is approaching the Rohingya refugee issue through an economic development programme. This is crucial since Bangladesh wants New Delhi to lean on Myanmar to take back the refugees.

Shringla and Gen Naravane will convey New Delhi’s commitment to the Rakhine State Development Programme.

Sources said India as a close friend, partner, and neighbour of both Bangladesh and Myanmar has a “deep and abiding interest to see an early stabilization of the situation in the Rakhine State”.

A source said that India supports safe, sustainable, and speedy repatriation of displaced persons from Bangladesh to Rakhine State based on the understanding between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The two sides are also expected to discuss the border development programme, which is in an advanced stage, has seen the successful implementation of around 140 projects such as roads and bridges, health care centres, schools, and other such infrastructure projects.

Sources said that the Indian high-powered delegation will also discuss development cooperation, which is close to USD 1.4 billion. Both countries are also actively engaged in enhancing cooperation in the fields of energy and power sectors.

With investments of over US $1.2 billion, Myanmar has the highest Indian investment in any country in South Asia.

The high-powered delegation will also touch upon Indian-assisted conservation projects in Myanmar, including conservation of the earthquake damaged pagodas in Bagan, and restoration of the Ananda temple.

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