Indian prime minister pays historic visit to Myanmar | News | DW | 28.05.2012
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Indian prime minister pays historic visit to Myanmar

The Indian prime minister is in Myanmar on a trip aimed at enhancing bilateral ties and trade. The visit comes after Myanmar implemented radical reforms that have improved its standing in the international community.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Monday during the first trip to Myanmar by an Indian prime minister since 1987.

The three-day visit to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is aimed at boosting trade and energy links.

In a statement released before his arrival in Naypyitaw on Sunday evening, Singh said: "Stronger trade and investment links, development of border areas, improving connectivity between our two countries and building capacity and human resources are areas that I hope to focus on during my visit."

The neighbors on Monday signed 12 agreements covering an array of issues including security, development of border areas, a trade and investment pact and transport links between the two countries

China in the lead

Indian investments in Myanmar lag far behind those of its regional rival, China, and Singh will, among other things, be looking to redress this imbalance.

According to data from IHS Global Insight, China was the main investor in Myanmar last year, pledging $8.3 billion (6.6 billion euros) in comparison with India's $189 million (150 million euros).

Singh's is the latest in a series of high-profile visits following dramatic reforms in Myanmar that ended its international isolation under the former junta. The leaders of Britain and South Korea, as well as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have all recently traveled to the country, which promises to be the next big frontier market with its new quasi-civilian regime.

The Indian leader is also to travel to the main city of Yangon for talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday.

New Delhi withdrew its initial support for Suu Kyi, a democracy icon who spent many years imprisoned under Myanmar's military rulers, in the mid-1990s, as it sought closer ties with the former junta. Tuesday's talks are being seen as a fence-mending exercise, with Suu Kyi now an elected member of parliament.

Myanmar's Ministry of Commerce says it expects two-way trade with India to nearly double in two years to $2 billion (1.59 billion euros), from $1.4 billion (1.11 billion euros) in the year to March 30, a figure that was nearly 30 percent higher from the previous year.

tj/ng (AFP, Reuters)