India on Thursday reached out to Myanmar and agreed to provide debt service relief under the G-20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative and hoped that this would further help mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
This was conveyed by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who held Foreign Office consultations with a Myanmar delegation led by Permanent Secretary U Soe Han through virtual mode.
The Permanent Secretary reaffirmed Myanmar’s commitment to strengthen its time-tested partnership with India for mutual benefit of the two countries. He also expressed appreciation for COVID-related and development assistance extended by India. He thanked India for providing debt service relief under the G-20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the period May 1 to December 31, 2020.
“We are meeting in exceptional times that have thrown up challenges but also avenues and opportunities to collaborate in divergent and multifaceted areas. India is prepared to continue to extend all possible support to Myanmar in mitigating the health and economic impact of COVID-19,” Shringla said at the meeting.
With respect to the COVID vaccine, he told Myanmar that New Delhi stands committed to sharing its capabilities with its strategic partners, including Myanmar.
On the issue of Rohingya refugees, he said, “Our work under the Border Area Development Programme and Rakhine State Development Programme continues apace. Recently, we have entered into a trilateral cooperation with Japan on the Rakhine State under which we will create soft infrastructure for 15 schools. Our efforts towards ensuring an early, safe and sustainable repatriation of internally displaced persons to Myanmar will continue.”
As friendly neighbouring countries, he said they have maintained a peaceful and tranquil border. “We attach the highest priority to the settlement of the remaining boundary issues and have proposed holding the next meeting of the Joint Boundary Working Group at the earliest,” he told the Myanmar delegation.
Stressing that security cooperation continues to be robust, Shringla said, “We have remained sensitive to each other’s security concerns. Myanmar’s handing over of 22 Indian insurgents has been deeply appreciated by the Government of India and sends a strong message of deterrence to inimical elements on both sides. In view of our special partnership, we would request for an early conclusion of the Extradition Treaty, Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Civil and Commercial Matters and Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.”
Taking note of the progress in defence cooperation projects, he said that a team for the deployment of Meteorological squadrons will be reaching Myanmar this month. “We are also looking forward to receiving your representative at our Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region,” he said.
India’s assistance to Myanmar is around $1.4 billion. Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, they are working towards operationalising Sittwe Port by the first quarter of next year. With respect to the 69 bridges on the Trilateral Highway, he said they will soon be moving forward with the tendering process.
An MEA statement said that during the consultations, both sides reviewed the entire gamut of relations, including border cooperation and upgradation of border infrastructure, status of India’s ongoing development projects in Myanmar, trade and investment ties, power and energy cooperation, consular matters and cultural cooperation, including the ongoing restoration work on earthquake damaged pagodas in Bagan.
The next Joint Trade Committee Ministerial Meeting on October 20 will be useful in further strengthening bilateral trade and investment relations, the statement said.
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