High Level visits
Myanmar shares a long, sensitive and porous land border of over 1600 Km with India as well as a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal. Four north-eastern States viz. Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram share an international boundary with Myanmar. These geo-strategic realities affect India’s north-eastern region, security of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and our broader interests in the Indian Ocean region. Both countries share a heritage of religious, linguistic and ethnic ties. Myanmar has a substantial population of Indian origin (estt. vary from 1.5 million to 2.0 million). People-to-people contacts need to be fostered to keep alive our common Buddhist heritage. Further, Myanmar is the only ASEAN country adjoining India and, therefore, our gateway to South East Asia with which we are seeking greater economic integration through India’s 'Look East' and now ‘Act East’ Policy. Myanmar also offers us an alternative access route to the Northeast.
Since the 1990s, India has adopted a policy of working on improved Government-to-Government relations, keeping our geo-political and strategic interests in view as well as extending support to democratic forces. Myanmar’s transition to a Constitution-based quasi-civilian Government in 2011, dialogue that the Myanmar Government commenced a dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (DASSK) and appeal to overseas dissidents to return home and participate in the reform process opened up new possibilities for India’s engagement. The landslide victory by the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the November 8, 2015 elections in which the NLD won 255/323 seats (lower house) and 135/168 (upper house) and 475/630 (in regional/state Parliament) and formation of NLD government has further provided opportunities to strengthen the engagement.
India’s policy is shaped primarily by our desire to safeguard our national security interests, especially in the North East. The activities of Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGs) in particular NSCN (I/M), PLA, UNLF and ULFA and arms smuggling into India through Myanmar remain an important security concern for India. These groups find shelter and operate from camps in Myanmar and have been able to procure arms consignments from and via Myanmar from China’s Yunnan province. Enabling access to North-East is another key objective, while creating road and trade links between India and ASEAN is central to our Look East policy. With the emergence of Myanmar as India’s largest supplier of pulses it is integral to our food security, while possibilities of energy supply from offshore blocks in Myanmar and business opportunities that emerging from an opening economy underpin relations.
Various institutional mechanisms have infused dynamism to the growing and multi-faceted bilateral ties. The first meeting of the India-Myanmar Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) co-chaired by EAM and Myanmar FM U Wunna Maung Lwin was held on July 16, 2015 in New Delhi. Defence & security, trade & commerce, development cooperation, consular, cultural matters and cooperation in multilateral forums were among issued discussed. The JCC has been established as an umbrella mechanism to facilitate interaction between various line ministries on the two sides.
At the Secretary-level, meetings include Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) at the level of Foreign Secretary/Deputy Foreign Minister (last held in July 2014, N. Delhi and Nay Pyi Taw in July 2013) and National Level Meeting (NLM) at the level of Home Secretary/ Deputy Home Minister (19th NLM held on Nov 17-19, 2014, Yangon and 18th NLM on 28-29 Dec 2012, N. Delhi). At the Joint Secretary level, the meetings include: Sectoral Level Meetings (SLM) at Joint Secretary-level, MHA (20th SLM was held in Bagan on 19-20 June and 19th SLM at 26-27 June 2012, Kolkata), Regional Border Committee Meetings (RBCS) at Indian GOC 3 Corps-level and Myanmar North Western Regional Commander (the last RBC meeting was held in January 2015, Kalay), while the quarterly Army Border Liaison Meetings are held regularly. In addition, Border Liaison Offices have been set up involving field level functionaries at Tamu/ Moreh and Rhi/ Zowkhathar. Commercial issues are taken at the Joint Trade Committee (JTC) held at Commerce Minister level (last held in 16-17 February 2015, Nay Pyi Taw). JWG on Border Trade and Border Haats, Railways and Shipping are held to discuss connectivity-related issues.
After a long hiatus after the visit of PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1987, there have been several high level visits including by Sr. Gen. Than Shwe (2004 and 2010), President Abdul Kalam (2006), Vice Sr. Gen. Maung Aye (2008), Vice President Ansari (2009), then President U Thein Sein (Oct 2011 & Dec 2012) and PM Dr. Manmohan Singh (May 2012). During these visits, important agreements were signed (MoU on Cooperation in Non-Traditional Security Issues, MoU on Intelligence Cooperation, DTAA, BIPPA, MLAT in Criminal Matters), and a number of development projects like the Kaladan project, restoration of Ananda Temple, hospital upgradation, OFL link. India has extended loans of US$ 297.43 million and grants of US$ 477.63 million for several infrastructure and public interest projects in health, education, agriculture etc.
PM Dr. Manmohan Singh paid a State Visit to Myanmar from May 27-29, 2012, after a gap of 25 years. PM and then President U Thein Sein signed 12 Agreements and MOUs including on USD 500 million Line of Credit, on Air Services, Border Areas Development, Establishment of the Advanced Centre for Agriculture Research & Education (ACARE), Rice Bio Park Myanmar and Institute of Information Technology with Indian assistance, Establishment of Border Haats, Joint Trade and Investment Forum, CEP for 2012-2015, MoUs for Cooperation amongst Think Tanks/ Institutes of the two countries and support for HRD through 500 training slots. With new road projects like the Trilateral Highway and Rhi-Tiddim road, India’s commitment to Myanmar’s development stands at about US$ 2 billion, which is more than the assistance offered by other countries.
PM Narendra Modi visited Nay Pyi Taw from Nov 11-13, 2014 to attend the 12th ASEAN-India Summit and 9th East Asia Summit. PM called on President U Thein Sein and met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. PM also interacted with around 300 members of the PIO community of Myanmar.NSA attended the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement ceremony on 15 October 2015 as India’s witness signatory; other signatories included China, Thailand, EU, UN and Japan. NSA met President, C-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and Minister U Aung Min on the sidelines. The NCA was a landmark event in over 67 years of internal strife and was signed between Myanmar Government and with eight ethnic armed organisations. India’s presence was a demonstration of support to the peace process.
EAM paid an official visit to Myanmar from 14-16 December 2012 and met counterpart FM U Wunna Maung Lwin. EAM and FM signed the MOU for construction of Rhi-Tiddim Road in Chin State of Myanmar. EAM and Vice President Dr. Sai Mauk Kham jointly inaugurated the “International Conference on Buddhist Cultural Heritage” organized by ICCR and Sitagu International Buddhist Academy in Yangon. EAM and Minister of Religious Affairs jointly unveiled the Sarnath Style Buddha Statue gifted by the People of India to Myanmar and also inaugurated the photo and book exhibition on “Buddhist Cultural Heritage” at the premises of Shwe Dagon Pagoda. EAM Sushma Swaraj visited Nay Pyi Taw from August 08-11 to attend the 4th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting and 21st ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial Meeting and paid an official bilateral visit on August 11, 2014. During the visit implementation of various ongoing development cooperation projects and cooperation for enhancing connectivity, increasing trade and commerce, security cooperation and renovation of Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Yangon were discussed.
RM led a high level delegation comprising of the Defence Secretary, Vice Chief of Naval staff, the GOC-in-C Eastern Command and other senior officials which visited Myanmar on 21 - 22 January 2013. During the visit, RM called on President U Thein Sein and had discussions with C-in-C Vice Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Defence Minister Lt. Gen. Wai Lwin. Lok Sabha Speaker led a first ever Indian Parliamentary delegation to Myanmar from 12-15 February 2013. Speaker called on the President and held discussions with Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann and Amyotha Hluttaw U Khin Aung Myint. The Speaker of Pyithu Hluttaw hosted a banquet in honour of visiting Speaker and interacted with the Indian Community.
Then CITM Shri Anand Sharma visited Myanmar from 6-8 June 2013 to attend World Economic Forum on East Asia. CIM and Myanmar Minister of Commerce U Win Myint inaugurated the 1st India-Myanmar Joint Trade and Investment Forum, Yangon. MOS C&I Nirmala Sitharaman co-Chaired the 5th Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meeting with U Win Myint on 16-17 February, 2015 in Nay Pyi Taw. During the visit MOS interacted with the Myanmar captains of industries at UMFCCI in Yangon and addressed the function organized by the Indian community, Yangon. The 3rd CMLV (Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam) Business Conclave was held on 12-13 January 2016 at Mamallapuram, near Chennai. MOS and Myanmar Dy. Commerce Minister Dr Pwint San co-chaired the Conclave along with Ministers from other CMLV countries. MOS C&I Smt Nirmala Sitharaman visited Yangon on 17-18 May 2016 for the India-Myanmar Business Conclave. MOS was accompanied by a high-level CII delegation comprising over 35 delegates. During the visit MOS met the Myanmar Ministers for Construction, Commerce as well as Industry. This was the first Ministerial business delegation visiting Myanmar by any country after assumption of charge by the new government. Other visits include that of Chief Ministers of Sagaing and Mandalay regions of Myanmar, who visited the Sangai festival in November 2013 with a 110-member delegation that included businessmen, artistes and media.