DHAKA: The visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Myanmar on Sunday is the latest sign that India now believes it needs to assert its presence in its eastern neighbour.
The visit underscores India’s quest for energy supplies to fuel its economic boom and concerns about China’s strong influence in Myanmar, where the elected — but military-backed — government is opening up its economy for investment and trade.
In recent years, India has nervously watched Beijing’s domination of Myanmar’s oil and gas exploration projects. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers are in Myanmar working on infrastructure and other projects.
Indian officials, however, are loath to admit that India’s Myanmar policy is being driven by China’s inroads there.
India wants to ‘secure a stronger and mutually beneficial relationship with a neighbouring country that is integral to India’s Look East policy’, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told journalists Friday.
India has adopted a ‘Look East’ policy of engaging with southeast and east Asia, reaching out and deepening bilateral ties with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia among others in the region.
Singh’s visit will be the first in 25 years by an Indian prime minister, although the two countries share a 1,600-kilometer land border, as well as a maritime border in the Bay of Bengal.
Myanmar, which was once known as Burma, had been an international pariah for decades under a military junta that quashed any hopes of democratic reform.
A 2010 election, though, has lead to at least some reforms and a gradual opening up to the rest of the world.
BDST: 2056 HRS, May 26, 2012
Edited by Robab Rosan, Cultural Affairs Editor
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