India extends USD 500 mn line of credit to Myanmar

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held extensive talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein, drawing up a roadmap for future course of bilateral ties.

Nay Pyi Taw: Embarking on a "new journey" of bilateral cooperation, India on Monday extended a USD 500 million line of credit to Myanmar as it signed 15 agreements on fields like trade, energy and connectivity with this resource-rich nation, which pledged not to allow its territory to be used by terrorists to target India.

On a historic visit to Myanmar, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 25 years, Manmohan Singh held extensive talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein, drawing up a roadmap for future course of bilateral ties.

After their talks, the two countries signed a raft of agreements to boost energy supplies from Myanmar to energy- hungry India, enhance trade and cross-border rail, shipping and road links that go beyond bilateralism to cover Thailand.

After being greeted with a ceremonial guard of honour here, Singh first held restricted talks with President Sein and then the two leaders led their sides to a larger format of discussions that saw them undertaking a comprehensive review of the bilateral ties and outlining a roadmap for the future.

"We have embarked on a new journey of bilateral cooperation," Singh told Thein Sein, adding "we are committed to strengthening our economic and development partnership."

Under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Export-Import Bank of India and Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank, India will extend to Myanmar a concessional credit line of USD 500 million which will be utilised in infrastructure development projects, including in agriculture, irrigation, rail transport and power in Myanmar, said a joint statement issued after Singh-Sein talks held at the Presidential Palace.

During the meeting, Singh also announced an annual
assistance of USD 25 million over the next five years for all-round economic development of border areas in Naga Self Administered Zone and Chin province of Myanmar bordering northeastern Indian states of Nagaland and Mizoram.

Indian officials said meeting the developmental needs of Myanmar`s border areas will go a long way in addressing Indian security concerns as several northeastern Indian insurgent groups, including ULFA, NSCN (K), operate from Myanmar.

Briefing media persons, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said the Prime Minister raised the insurgency issue in the context of India`s security concerns, to which the Myanmar President vowed that no Indian insurgent or terrorist would be allowed to use his country`s territory to target India.

The joint statement said "both leaders reaffirmed their shared commitment to fight the scourge of terrorism and insurgent activity in all its forms and manifestations and emphasised the need for enhanced cooperation between security forces and border guarding agencies for securing peace, security and stability in the border areas."

"Both the leaders reiterated the assurance that territories of either country would not be allowed to be used for activities inimical to each other, including for training, sanctuary and other operations by terrorist and insurgent organisations and their operatives," the statement said.
The substantive outcome of the Prime Minister`s visit was reflected in the signing of 15 agreements -- 12 between the two governments and state-backed entities and three involving the Indian private sector.

One agreement relates to air services under which even private carriers of India could fly to Myanmar and it has a provision which will allow the flights of the airlines of the two countries to pick up passengers from Myanmar on their way to destinations in third countries of South East Asia and elsewhere, which could make the services more attractive, Mathai said.

As India eyes large untapped potential gas and oil
resources of Myanmar, Indian private company Jubilant Energy signed an agreement with two Myanmarese entities, including a state-owned, to explore oil in an onshore block on Irrawady delta, not far from Yangon, which would add to its capacity as the company already has an offshore block in its kitty.

Besides, the Foreign Secretary said, India is looking at energy-scouting opportunities for its companies as "we believe Myanmar has a very large untapped potential for gas and oil".

Pointing out that Myanmar was the first country to explore and find oil in this region, Mathai said "if more gas and oil blocks emerge, the old idea of an energy pipeline from Myanmar to India could be revived".

Asked if India was trying to fill a partial void created by cut in China`s involvement in Myanmar, the Foreign Secretary said "our plan to visit Myanmar is not driven by any consideration other than securing national interests."

The Prime Minister conveyed to President Sein that better connectivity with Myanmar is one of the thrust areas in ties.

India responded positively to a request by Myanmar for assistance in upgrading of Kalewa-Yargi road in Myanmar into a highway by the year 2016 while Myanmar would undertake to tone up Yargi-Monywa stretch into highway standard, which would finally help in connecting the road Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand in a trilateral project.

It would also help facilitate introduction of the much-publicised passenger bus service between Imphal and Mandalay, Myanmar`s second largest city. Myanmar has also sought Indian help in repairing 71 bridges on Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo road in the area.
The two sides, however, only expressed the intent to get the Imphal-Mandalay bus link after constructing the road beyond Kalewa at the earliest.

Asked why no accord could be signed on the bus service,
Mathai said because there was no road constructed for that and the two sides decided that necessary infrastructure would be put in place before operationalising the service.

Under the MoU for border area development, the joint statement said both sides identified the need for special focus on prosperity of people in these areas by undertaking both infrastructure development and micro-economic needs, including upgrade of roads and construction of schools, health centres and bridges and agriculture and related activities.

The Prime Minister announced India`s assistance, including technological support, supply of quality seed and help to farmers in finding market for their product, in commercial production of cardamom in Naga Self Administered Zone in Myanmar.

Besides the government involvement in development projects, two leading private companies of India JK Paper Industries and Kirloskar would set up a paper mill and a pump manufacturing plants in Myanmar for which two separate MoUs were signed.

The Prime Minister commended the President of Myanmar on the "path-breaking" reform measures taken by his government towards greater democratisation and national reconciliation and ongoing efforts for political, economic and social reform, which included negotiation of preliminary peace agreements with several ethnic groups as well as dialogue with various democratic political parties, including National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

He also expressed appreciation for the free, fair and peaceful conduct of the recent by-elections.

The Prime Minister expressed India`s readiness to extend all necessary assistance in accelerating Myanmar`s democratic transition and developing the capacity of democratic institutions such as Parliament, National Human Rights Commission and the media.

Singh told President Sein that India was ready to share with Myanmar its experience of parliamentary democracy and "we wish you all success in your nation-building efforts and changes you are bringing about".

Singh conveyed India`s readiness to undertake training programmes for Myanmar Parliamentarians and legislative staff.

Expressing their commitment to enhance cooperation in Science and Technology, the two leaders agreed that Myanmar would prepare specific proposals on some of its priority projects in the fields of agricultural biotechnology, post- harvest technology, medical biotechnology, medical research and renewable energy so that they could be taken forward for their implementation.

Under another MoU signed during the visit, the two leaders decided to set up the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology with financial and technical assistance from India.

Singh announced continued technical and financial support for the India-Myanmar Centre for Enhancement of IT Skills in Yangon for a further five-year period when it will also undergo a technology upgrade.

The Prime Minister also announced a fellowship for Myanmar Researchers to work in Indian universities and research institutions, under which 10 slots would be allocated every year.

Each Fellowship would be for 4-6 months duration in the areas of Atmospheric and Earth Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Mathematical and Computational Sciences and Physical Sciences.

Singh said that in keeping with India`s commitment to developing human resource capacity in Myanmar, the existing number of training slots for Myanmar, including under the Indian Economic and Technical Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, would be doubled from the current 250 to 500.