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Asia

Suu Kyi 'coming home' to India

Aung San Suu Kyi enthralled India on her six-day visit. It was a kind of emotional homecoming between the celebrated Nobel laureate and the country that helped shape her into the icon she is today.

An idol of the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar, Suu Kyi flashed a traditional "namaste" (welcome sign) after stepping out of the aircraft that brought her from Yangon. It was her first visit to India in nearly 40 years and just two years after she was released from house arrest.

During her six-day sojourn, the pro-democracy leader used her time to the maximum. She visited memorials of Indian independence leaders Mohandas K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, visited parliament and delivered a moving speech at the prestigious Nehru Memorial Lecture. But most of all she squeezed in time to meet friends from her school and college days in Delhi, where she said it felt like she was "coming home."

Aung San Suu Kyi spent several years in India as a student in the early 1960s where she obtained a degree in politics from the Lady Sri Ram College while her mother was ambassador to the country.

"I want to see the places where I spent time as a teenager … see how it is going and if things have changed. But most of all I want to see closer relations between the people of the two countries," the 67-year-old politician told DW on the sidelines of her many interactions.

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) speaks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during their meeting in New Delhi November 14, 2012(Photo: REUTERS/Harish Tyagi/Pool)

Singh said he admired Suu Kyi's courage

India had vocally supported Suu Kyi's pro-democracy movement in Myanmar, also known as Burma, in the 1990s, but later changed tact and engaged with the country's military rulers.

But this time around, New Delhi rolled out the red carpet as part of the diplomatic outreach to build ties with the energy-rich Southeast Asian country, which has started welcoming democratic reforms after decades of military rule.

"What one must understand is that Suu Kyi is pragmatic and is keen to once again engage with India, as well as other countries that could help further the democratic cause," Dr. Tint Swe, an exiled Burmese Member of Parliament and a close associate of Suu Kyi, told DW.

Suu Kyi hopes India will stand by Myanmar

During her meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh she discussed the process of national reconciliation and democratization in her country.

"Our good wishes are with you [and] with your struggle for democracy. We admire you for the indomitable courage you have shown," the prime minister told Myanmar's opposition leader.

However, it was while delivering the prestigious Nehru Memorial Lecture, held annually to mark the birthday of independent India's first elected leader, that Suu Kyi stole the cake with a heart-warming speech.

A man reads a newspaper sitting next to another paper with a photograph of American president Barack Obama in Yangon, Myanmar Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (Photo:Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP/dapd)

US President Obama will be the first sitting president to visit Myanmar

"I was saddened to see that we had drawn away from India, or rather that India had drawn away from us during our very difficult days, but I always had faith in the lasting friendship between our two countries based on lasting friendships between our two peoples," she said.

"Governments come and go, and that's what democracy is all about, but people remain."

Talking about the principles in politics around the world, and often the lack of it, she said, "Principles must always exist in politics. Unprincipled politics is the most dangerous thing in the world.

"If you compromise your principles, you should get out of politics while you are still unblemished."

After her trip to India, Suu Kyi is scheduled to meet US president Barack Obama in Yangon early next week who will stop by after a four-day trip to the East Asian Summit in Cambodia. This will be a historic first visit to the country by a sitting US president.

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