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Shringla visits Myanmar today in first outreach after coup

This will be Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla's first visit to the country since the coup in February this year.

Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. (File)

In what is India’s first official outreach to Myanmar’s military-ruled regime, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla will pay a two-day working visit to Myanmar on December 22 and 23. This will be his first visit to Myanmar since the coup in February this year.

Announcing the visit, the Ministry of External Affairs said, “During the visit, Foreign Secretary will hold discussions with the State Administration Council, political parties and members of civil society.”
It said that “issues relating to humanitarian support to Myanmar, security and India-Myanmar border concerns, and the political situation in Myanmar will be discussed”.

This comes exactly two weeks after India said on December 7 that it is “disturbed” by the verdicts relating to Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others. Underlining that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld, New Delhi had said any development that “undermines these processes and accentuates differences is a matter of deep concern”.

Suu Kyi was sentenced to a four-year jail term by a Myanmar court which held her guilty of inciting dissent in the first of a series of verdicts. Her sentence was later reduced to two years in jail.

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The China factor

With Washington leaning on Delhi, India finds itself in a tight spot on Myanmar. Aware of Beijing’s growing political, military and economic footprint in Myanmar, it does not want to isolate the Nay Pyi Taw regime. Delhi believes it can, with partner countries, engage the junta. Shringla’s visit is a step in that direction.

New Delhi’s statement came ahead of the Summit for Democracy, convened by US President Joe Biden on December 9 and 10, which was attended through virtual mode by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The MEA statement was significant, more direct than its past statements. Myanmar was rocked by massive protests after the military seized power in a coup on February 1 this year. Hundreds of people, including children, were killed in the crackdown against the protesters. Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, was among those detained by the military following the coup. Hours after the coup, the MEA had said it had “noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern”.

New Delhi had steered clear of criticising the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, as it has been wary of Beijing’s growing influence and the high stakes involved to maintain peace and security along the India-Myanmar border.

First published on: 21-12-2021 at 05:59:04 pm
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