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India saddened me… let’s talk now: Suu Kyi

"I would like to have thought that India would be standing behind us," Aung San Suu Kyi said.

Written by Alia Allana | New Delhi |
November 24, 2010 5:52:13 am

Expressing her “sadness” with the way New Delhi engaged with the military regime in Yangon while she was in detention,Myanmarese leader Aung San Suu Kyi today called for “talks with (India) as soon as possible.”

She was speaking to The Indian Express over the telephone in her first interview to an Indian news organisation since her release on November 13.

“I am saddened with India. I would like to have thought that India would be standing behind us. That it would have followed in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru,” said Suu Kyi.

A prisoner in her own land,locked in her lakeside home in Rangoon,Aung San Suu Kyi,65,had spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest.

She now sees the time opportune for a fresh political initiative between her party and the Indian government. “We would like India to work closely with us,that is work with my party,the National League for Democracy (NLD),” she said.

The NLD has been sidelined by the junta since it claimed an astounding victory in the 1990 elections.

The junta never recognised the results of the elections that granted the NLD a 80 per cent mandate to govern.

The junta has ruled over Burma since 1962. “I do not oppose relations with the Generals but I hope that the Indian government would talk to us as well. I would like to see talks begin immediately. I would like to see close and friendly relations,like those that have not been seen recently.”

“I would like India to remember that the two countries have been through thick and thin together. We have fought together against colonialism. It is now time to maintain steady in that direction and encourage a valuable friendship,” she said.

Suu Kyi,a graduate of Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College,and her husband,the late Michael Aris,a scholar in Tibet and Bhutan studies,lived in Shimla prior to her return to Myanmar in 1988.

“I would love to return to India. My fondest memories are in India. As a family we lived in Shimla. That has been the happiest time of my life,” she said.

Myanmar has been the recipient of a stringent sanctions regime due to the politics of the military men. Suu Kyi has,in the past,called upon sanctions to keep the generals in tow.

Since her release she has spoken of an easing of those sanctions. “Sanctions need to be reviewed from time to time. They need to be viewed not simply from the economic angle but the social implications as well. There are many people with many different views on sanctions. It is time we had a look at the sanction regime again. I will need to speak to the countries that have imposed sanctions and need to hear their qualms. They did so — after all,do so — to usher in democratic change.”

On China,Suu Kyi said: “China is a neighbour we have a longstanding friendship with. But currently China is not on the side of those who side with democracy and human rights. But I maintain that we have to be on good terms with neighbours.”

Suu Kyi,under the laws of the new Constitution is prevented from participating in politics.

Her NLD boycotted the November 2010 elections,Myanmar’s first in 20 years,saying the rules prevented a free and fair process but a breakaway group (National Democratic Force) did participate.

This fractured her party and the NLD is not a legal entity today,as per the new election laws.

Said Suu Kyi: “The NLD and I believe that there are great flaws in the constitution…(But) we have to first sort out our differences (within).”

Suu Kyi,who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991,was reunited with her son yesterday after 10 years of separation.

“The best moment for me has been the arrival of my son,but that’s a personal moment. But the moment I hold closest is when I saw the faces of my supporters.”

Suu Kyi had previously expressed her interest in using Twitter to reach out to her supporters but she’s keener on Facebook now.

“A lot of young Burmese have told me that Facebook,rather than Twitter is more useful to them. But I do not have an internet connection. I did go to apply for an internet permit but I don’t know how easy it will be but I have made the application.”

Suu Kyi underlined her commitment to a non-violent struggle. “My calm comes from my people,from my colleagues. Many of who have been in much worse situations in Burma’s jails. My people have always managed to remain calm and cheerful.”

She now has her eyes set on the long-run as a free citizen active in politics. But there is the matter of a book. “I do have ideas and have jotted down many notes but the time for the book must be right.”

India for its part has prodded along trading with the Myanmarese junta.

Though the MEA called for the release of Suu Kyi,it ensured bilateral relations in trade continue. This policy is a departure from the 1990s when India was more vocal and active in persuading the junta to follow on the route to democracy.

But with increased Chinese investment and interests,India felt it necessary to deal with the junta.

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