In a rare meeting this morning with Aung San Suu Kyi,for long the face of the struggle for democracy in Myanmar,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh handed her a letter from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi,inviting her to deliver the Jawaharlal Nehru memorial lecture in New Delhi.
Emerging from the nearly hour-long meeting,Suu Kyi said: I hope I will be able to take up this invitation before not too long True friendship between two countries can only be based on friendship between two people.
The Prime Minister,on his part,said: Her life,struggle and determination have inspired millions across the world. It is my sincere belief that in the process of national reconciliation started by President Thein Sein,she will play a defining role.
Last month,Suu Kyi was elected to the lower house of parliament in byelections that were held as the government tried to end 50 years of military rule and isolation. Leader of the National League for Democracy,Suu Kyi spent most of her 24 years in the country under house arrest and was released months before Thein Sein took charge last year.
This morning,Suu Kyi called on the Prime Minister at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon soon after he arrived from a two-day visit to Naypyitaw where he met Thein Sein and announced upgradation in ties between the two countries.
Suu Kyi,who went to school at the Convent of Jesus and Mary in New Delhi and graduated from the Lady Shri Ram College in 1964,recalled her deep association with India. Daughter of Burmese independence hero General Aung San,Suu Kyi travelled to New Delhi with her mother Khin Kyi who was appointed Ambassador to India.
We were particularly close to Panditji, she said after the Prime Minister announced that she had been invited to deliver the Nehru memorial lecture.
After backing her struggle against the military rulers of Myanmar,India turned its back on her in the l990s as China made deep inroads into the reclusive country and North-East insurgent groups sought shelter in forests across the border. New Delhi began reaching out to the Generals,leaving Suu Kyi and her supporters disappointed.
This morning,Suu Kyi said she appreciated the fact that the Prime Minister had taken out time to meet her. She said both countries had much to contribute to peace in the region. Later,Singh,while responding to a query on their meeting,said: Talking to her,I learnt a great deal on what empowerment is all about.
Suu Kyi was to leave later in the day on her first trip abroad in 24 years she never left the country after she returned in 1988 to tend to her ailing mother. Her first stop will be Bangkok where she will address the World Economic Forum on East Asia this Friday. In mid-June,she will travel to Geneva and Oslo to formally receive the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 1991. She will then head to Dublin and England.