As EAS kicksoff, Narendra Modi meets Medvedev, Obama kicks up a row

Obama accused the Myanmarese government of backsliding on reforms, hours ahead of this talks with the President

Written by Anil Sasi | Updated: November 13, 2014 12:45:20 pm
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, left and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, center, smiles ahead of the East Asia summit plenary session at Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ( seen here with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang)  ahead of the East Asia summit plenary session at Myanmar International Convention Center in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. (AP photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev here on Thursday morning. The meeting, Modi’s first diplomatic engagement on the third day of his 10-day three-nation tour, came just ahead of next month’s Indo-Russia summit. At the meeting, Medvedev reiterated that India is a “valued” partner for his country.

“India is a close and valued partner for us,” Medvedev told Modi while discussing the Indo-Russian engagements during their meeting at the Myanmar International Conference Centre here hours ahead of the East Asia Summit that got underway here on Thursday. Modi responded by
saying he was confident that ties between the two countries will be strengthened further.

Modi is slated to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the newly-elected President of Indonesia Joko Widodo and the PM of Laos, Thongsing Thammavong, for bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit (EAS) — a broader gathering of the 10 ASEAN countries plus eight other nations, including the United States, China, Russia and India. Created in 2005, the EAS originally had 16 members: the 10 members of ASEAN, the ASEAN ‘plus three’ (China, Japan and South Korea) and India, Australia and New Zealand. In 2011, the US and the Russian Federation joined in.

In the increasingly overcrowded Asian regional architecture, the EAS was created to provide a leaders’ level meeting that had a broad policy remit, as against say the just concluded APEC meet in Beijing, which has a narrow focus on economic matters.

US President Barack Obama, who flew in to Nay Pyi Taw last night for the EAS, however triggered a minor diplomatic controversy here after
accusing the Myanmarese government of backsliding on reforms, just hours ahead of this scheduled talks with Myanmar’s President U Thein
Sein. Obama who is here for the EAS, which follows Wednesday’s Asean meeting, said reform momentum had slowed in Myanmar and that
there had even been some steps backwards, in an interview with a Thai-based Burmese publication ahead of his arrival. “Burma is still at the beginning of a long and hard journey of renewal and reconciliation,”  Obama said in the interview with The Irrawaddy magazine.

Myanmar has been welcomed back into the international fold after promising sweeping reforms that include the release of political prisoners and the commitment to free and fair polls next year. The ASEAN and East Asia summits held in the remote capital city of Nay Pyi Taw are the culmination of a year of diplomatic highs for Myanmar, after having long been relegated to the sidelines under its former military rulers.

The other key issues that are expected to be discussed include the continuing slugfest between several ASEAN members and China over control of territory in the South China Sea.

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