Commercial cooperation is another area of focus. India and Myanmar signed a trade agreement in 1970. Bilateral trade has been growing steadily to reach USD 2052.47 million in 2015-16 and India is the fifth largest trade partner of Myanmar but trade remains below potential. Agriculture sector dominates bilateral trade, particularly supply of beans and pulses to India (813.85 million in 2014-15) and Timber and wood products (US$ 382.12 million). India’s exports to Myanmar include pharmaceuticals products, steel & iron products, electrical machinery, Mineral oil, Rubber and articles, plastics etc. US$ 169.17 million worth of pharmaceutical products were exported to Myanmar in 2014-15. Border trade via Moreh and Zawkhatar has reached to US$ 51.68 million in 2013-14.
India is presently the ninth largest investor with an approved investment of US$ 730.649 million by 22 Indian companies, out of the total estimated investments of US$ 58.03 billion from 41 countries by 1001 enterprises (as of 29 Feb 2016). Most of India’s investments have been in the oil and gas sector. Following the New Foreign Investment Law (02 Nov 2012) and the by-laws and rules framed by the respective departments/ministries (31 January 2013) investments into the country is increasing. Now FDI is allowed 100 % in select sectors. Indian companies have evinced interest in investing in Myanmar and major contracts have been won by Indian companies include Jubilant Energy India- PSC-1 onshore bloc; Punj Lloyd; Jindal Saw; Welspun India; Vihaan Networks; Nipha Exports and Troika Exports; L&T. More facilitative environment that includes greater air, sea and road connectivity options would give a fillip to the cooperation. Cooperation in banking sector is crucial for investment and trade. United Bank of India signed number of banking agreements with banks of Myanmar (MFTB, MICB, MEB, and 9 private banks) in order to facilitate trade transactions between the two countries. United Bank of India (UBI) opened its representative office in November 2012. In addition to UBI, Indian Overseas Bank, EXIM bank and State Bank of India have opened representative office in Yangon.
Mechanisms such as Joint Trade Committee, Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement and technical level committee on trade have contributed to strengthening trade and investment relations. The first Joint Trade and Investment Forum (JTIF) was held in Yangon on 7 June 2013 co-chaired by Shri Sunil Mittal and U Aung Win (President UMFCCI, Myanmar).
Defence Cooperation: The past few years have witnessed a growing defence bilateral ties. Myanmar welcomes India's cooperation as it enables it counter-balance its dependency on a few countries. The cooperation has been boosted by regular exchange of visits at the Service Chief level The Indian Chiefs Army and Navy visited Myanmar in January 2012 and August 2011 respectively. In November 2012, Chairman COSC and CAS Air Chief Marshal Browne led tri-services delegation visited Myanmar from 26 to 30 November 2012 and Gen. Bikram Singh, COAS visited Myanmar from Oct 29 – Nov 02, 2013. During the visit, the delegation held formal discussion with C-in-C Senior General Min Aug Hlaing and Service Chiefs of Armed Forces. The delegation also made courtesy call on with President U Thein Sein and Myanmar Army was presented a set of five Handgliders and INFCOTT and CDR wargame software, jointly developed by the Indian Army and DRDO.
As Myanmar seeks to enhance its defence ties with India, nearly 200 officials from Myanmar Defence Services were trained in India during 2015, 2 PG slots in AFMC, training in fixed and rotary wing aircraft and in VIP security duties at NSG centre. India is now supplying defensive military hardware for the use of the Myanmar Navy. This marks restoration of supply of hardware which was halted following demonstrations in September 2007. There has also been close interaction between the two Navies including participation of Myanmar Navy Ship during International Fleet Review held at Visakhapatnam in February 2016 and presence of Myanmar Navy Chief during the event.
From Myanmar side, C-in-C and Sr Gen Min Aung Hlaing led a 21 member delegation to India from 01-08 August 2012. Myanmar CNS Vice Admiral Thura Thet Swe visited India from 29 July- 1 August 2013. Vice Senior Gen. U Soe Win paid an official visit to India from 11-15 December 2013 and called on Raksha Mantri and had discussions with COAS Gen. Bikram Singh and reviewed passing out parade at OTA Gaya. The Second Naval Staff Talks were held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar from November 6-8, 2013. CNS Admiral Thura Thet Swe, Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar visited India from July 29 to August 1, 2013. Lt Gen Khin Aung Myint, Chief of Staff (Air) attended the 9th edition of Aero India show at Bangalore. INS Darshak undertook a joint hydrological survey along with Myanmar Navy off the coast of Sittwe including the Kaladan Multimodal Transport-Transit Port in Sittwe.
Commencement of Army and Air Force Staff Talks in 2015 in addition to the ongoing Naval talks have further enhanced our relations. Cooperation along the border areas has also improved post the signing of MoU on Border Cooperation in May 2014. This was evident by successful handling of the fallouts from the alleged cross border raid by Indian Army after an ambush by IIG’s based in Myanmar on a Indian Army column in Jun 2015. In accordance with this MoU, border meetings are regularly held in a four-tiered structure and communication lines have been established between three locations across the border. However, Myanmar Army has not shown any worthwhile cooperation in controlling the IIGs based in Myanmar territory and their links with other foreign countries.
Security Cooperation in respect of Indian Insurgent groups (IIGs)
So far, there has been little progress on the issue of combating insurgency along the India-Myanmar border on Myanmar side. There have been some coordinated patrols by the two armies along the border but has not been able to achieve its objective of vacating IIG camps believed to be located along the porous border. India has been sharing maps and photographs on IIGs camps on Myanmar soil, particularly in Sagaing Division (adjoining Manipur/ Nagaland) and has since been informed that after due enquiries, Myanmar has not found any camps at these locations. We have also been providing them detailed information over the past year on the precise whereabouts of Paresh Barua, military chief of the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom and one of our most sought-after fugitives, and sought his extradition; there has been no specific response, except asking for more details.
The Myanmar leadership has, on numerous occasions, conveyed that Myanmar empathises with India as it faces a similar problem on its border with Thailand and will not accept elements working in its border areas against India. Then President Thein Sein, in interaction with EAM, PM and others, has reiterated this message on various occasions, however with a rider saying that these areas are densely forested, hard to access and communications are very difficult. Myanmar will continue to try to improve access to make it possible for military to patrol and monitor and check their activities. He also conveyed that Myanmar plans to open police stations and administrative offices in these areas in order to control the situation and ensure rule of law. During the discussion between PM and President Thein Sein in May 2012, they reiterated that territories of either country would not be allowed to be used for activities inimical to other. MOU on Border Cooperation was signed in May 2014 providing for coordinated patrolling by the security forces of both countries.
There are some indications, however, that steady pressure exerted by us on Myanmar to act on insurgency is having some impact. As per intelligence reports, during negotiations with NSCN (Khaplang), Myanmar Government asked the latter to ensure that the Meitei insurgents are sent back from their camps. During dialogue, Myanmar leaders have acknowledged that there is some control by the security forces in some areas on movement of insurgents, and promised to improve administration and connectivity to address this problem. They have sought our help by providing road building equipment, Bailey bridges and development assistance in the Naga Self Administered Zone for infrastructure development and micro-finance projects for 5 years, which is being covered under Border Development projects.
The other forum for security dialogue is the Regional Border Committee (RBC) led by GOC 3 Corps and on Myanmar side by North Western Commander, which met for the first time in Leimakhong, India on May 7-9, 2012. The last RBC meeting was held in Kalay in January 2015. During the RBC meeting the two sides have agreed to launch coordinated patrols along land and maritime border. Notwithstanding no substantial achievement on the ground, it is still a forward movement as some sort of coordinated patrol on land and maritime has commenced on security cooperation.
Cooperation in the Hydrocarbon sector: Myanmar is an important partner in strengthening our energy security. Recognising this, an MOU on Co-operation in the Petroleum Sector between MOP&NG and Ministry of Energy of Myanmar was signed during President’s visit to Myanmar in March 2006. ONGC Videsh Ltd. (ONGC-VL) and GAIL in 2006, acquired 20% and 10% participating interest in the A1/A3 blocks (Shwe Development and Production Area). In 2010, ONGC withdrew from AD-2, AD-3 & AD-9 deepwater blocks to which it had been given PSC rights due to poor prospects. ESSAR had acquired stakes in offshore block A-2 and onshore block 'L' and invested USD 100 million in exploration of these blocks. However, their exploration contract been terminated for both blocks from 1 and 5 August 2012 due to failure to fulfil conditions of PSC. In 2011, M/s Jubilant Energy got exploration and prospecting rights on PSC-1 onshore block (3600 km2) along with consortium of Parami Energy Development Co. They were keen on securing similar rights in the 2013 round of bidding for one or two more adjacent onshore blocks but could not. During the 2nd round of bidding in 2013 for exploration and production of Onshore (2nd round) oil blocks, ONGC won two blocks viz., B2 and EP3 and during the 2nd round of bidding of Offshore oil & gas blocks (both shallow and deep water), Reliance won 2 blocks-M17 & M18 and OIL won 2 blocks-YEB & M4.
Development cooperation is a key aspect of our relationship and we have offered technical and financial assistance to Myanmar for projects in infrastructure, capacity-building, emergency relief and others, as indicated below.
Human Resource Development Initiatives: We have extended considerable support for building up Myanmar's human resource capacity under the ITEC, TCS and ICCR scholarship schemes. The ITEC programme was launched in Myanmar in 1996 with 30 slots. Since 2000 more than 2200 Scholarships have been utilized under the ITEC/TCS schemes. PM during his visit in May 2012 announced that the number of training slots for Myanmar, under the Indian Economic and Technical Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, would be doubled to 500. Besides these India also offering 25 police training courses for Myanmar police personnel annually. In the year 2014-15 Myanmar has utilized 476 slots out of the 525 allotted.
Other important initiatives taken by India includes setting up of Myanmar Institute of Information Technology in Mandalay with financial and technical assistance from India. IIIT, Bangalore has been appointed as the mentor institute to set up MIIT and run for 5 years. MIIT would be a state of the art institute which will help turn out IT professionals with deemed university status. The Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education (ACARE) and Rice Bio Park are being established with Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa and Dr. M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation as the mentor institute to set up the ACARE and Rice Bio Park respectively. The vision for these institutes is that they will emerge as centres of excellence which will be able to address the needs of Myanmar’s agricultural sector and IT industry respectively.
Other initiatives for cooperation in skill development include Myanmar-India Centre for English Language (MICELT) and Myanmar-India Entrepreneurship Development Centre (MIEDC) which have been set up and running successfully. Training for the students is underway at both the Centres. India has also set up the India-Myanmar Centre for Enhancement of IT Skills in Yangon as a bilateral grant project in 2008. Above 2000 students have received training at the Centre. A similar centre of excellence in IT is also to be opened in Myitkyina during the year. We have set up two Industrial Training Centres in Pakokku and Myingyan to develop skilled labour for Myanmar industry. The Centres have been training many Myanmar students who have been able to find placement in the local industries. India has been also offering periodic capacity building programmes to Myanmar on need basis. These have included WTO training workshops, journalists training programmes, special courses on rubber plantation and manufacture and dairy sector.
Disaster Relief: India responded promptly and effectively to assist Myanmar in humanitarian relief operations following natural calamities like Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the earthquake in Shan State in 2010 and cyclone Komen in 2015. We provided immediate relief material, medical assistance, supplies for rehabilitation work, biomass gasifiers, solar torches & lanterns. We have also replaced 16 damaged transformers and given a grant of USD 200,000 to repair the Shwedagon Pagoda complex in Yangon. We also gave assistance of USD 1 million for relief and reconstruction work in the quake affected zone in Shan State of which 250,000 was given as a cash grant and the remainder used to finance reconstruction of 1 high school and 6 primary schools. We have also donated US$200,000 in cash for Rakhine State rehabilitation. India again provided a sum of US$ 1 million to Government of Myanmar for promoting inter-communal harmony in Rakhine State which the Myanmar Government has chosen to use to construct 10 schools to serve both communities and promoting communal harmony. The construction of 10 schools has hence been completed and classes commenced from the new building. Our emergency supply of food, medicines and relief supplies through four airforce flights to Kalay and Mandalay, soon after the Cyclone Komen has been widely appreciated.
Connectivity: Connectivity is increasingly being seen as the key to promoting bilateral commercial, cultural, touristic and other exchanges. India is undertaking some important development projects that will enhance connectivity: these include the Kaladan project, construction/upgradation of Rhi-Tiddim Road, MOU for which was signed during the visit of EAM to Myanmar in December 2012. We have agreed to Myanmar’s request to build 69 bridges along the Tamu-Kalamyo-Kalewa (TKK) Friendship Road and construct the 126 km Kalewa-Yargyi road segment forming part of the Trilateral Highway from Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar. We are also working on boosting air, rail and sea links. During the visit of Prime Minister in May 2012, Air Services Agreement was signed and agreed to set up JWGs to determine the technical and commercial feasibility of cross-border rail links and direct shipping links between the two countries. The bilateral Air Services Agreement enables third, fourth and fifth freedom rights to both Indian and Myanmar carriers. An MOU to establish a direct Imphal-Mandalay bus service and the broad framework for the operation of this service has been negotiated and initialized and awaiting formal signing. The Air India has launched a direct flight between Delhi-Gaya-Yangon once in a week and Gaya-Kolkata-Yangon flights twice a week. The Shipping Corporation of India launched a direct sea link in October 2014.
In a bid to boost people to people contacts across the border, we have signed an MOU for Border Haats at identified locations, which will enable buying and selling of small quantities of local products by the residents of the area. During the Border Haats Committee meeting in Nay Pyi Taw in September, 2013, it was agreed that initially, a Border Haat will be established at Pangsau Pass and identified nine other locations for setting up more Haats at other mutually decided locations subsequently.
Culture: India and Myanmar share close cultural ties. There is a deep sense of kinship, particularly amongst the Buddhist community, given India’s association with Gautama Buddha. We are trying to make the most of this shared heritage by undertaking some key initiatives: GOI working for restoration of the Ananda Temple in Bagan; GOI donated a 16 foot replica of the Sarnath Buddha Statue which has been installed at the premises of Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon; MEA in coordination with ICCR and the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy and Myanmar Ministry of Religious Affairs organised an International Conference on Buddhist Cultural Heritage from 15-17 December 2012. Performances by cultural troupes have been organized on a regular basis. Myanmar troupes and artistes have regularly participated in South Asian and ASEAN cultural events in India.
Indian Diaspora: The origin of the Indian community in Myanmar is traced back to the mid-19th century with the advent of the British rule in Lower Burma in 1852. The two cities of the Myanmar namely Yangon and Mandalay had a dominating presence of Indians in civil services, education, trade and commerce during the British rule. According to 1983 official census of Myanmar the number of Person of Indian origin (PIOs) in Myanmar is 428,428. A large number of the Indian community (nearly 150,000) live in Bago (Zeyawaddy and Kuayktaga) and Tanintharyi Region and Mon State, primarily engaged in farming. The NRI families mainly live in urban/cities and are engaged in export import business or are employees of MNCs based in India, Singapore and Thailand. There are estt. 1.5-2.0 million people of Indian origin living and working in various parts of Myanmar.
Bilateral Cooperation in Regional/Sub-regional context
Myanmar's membership of ASEAN, BIMSTEC and Mekong Ganga Cooperation has introduced a regional/sub-regional dimension to our bilateral relations and imparted added significance in the context of our "Look East" policy. As the only ASEAN country sharing a land border with India, Myanmar is also a bridge between South and South East Asia, a pivotal and visible link between India and ASEAN. At the India-ASEAN Summit in November 2002, Myanmar supported our case for such Summit meetings to be held on an annual basis. Myanmar also supported India’s inclusion in the East Asia Summit mechanism. Myanmar has generally been supportive of India’s candidature to various international organisations. For our part, we have supported Myanmar's association with SAARC as an observer; Myanmar formally acquired such status in 2008. We have also spoken in Myanmar’s support during UN deliberations on Myanmar at the UNGA and UNHRC.