India – Myanmar Ties
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
In News: India and Myanmar exchanged 10 agreements in a number of fields ranging from infrastructure, energy, communication and health. The agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed and exchanged after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Myanmar President at Hyderabad House. The two leaders held discussions on a wide range of bilateral issues.
- In line with its Act East and Neighbourhood First policies, India has laid emphasis on boosting its cooperation with Myanmar.
- India is the fifth largest trading partner of Myanmar and the current bilateral trade stands at US $ 1.7 billion.
- Myanmar is the only ASEAN country bordering India which provides a gateway to South East Asia.
India-Myanmar relations are rooted in shared historical, ethnic, cultural and religious ties. Myanmar is seen as a crucial partner in the fight to end insurgency in India’s north-east, as a gateway to South-East Asia and a key component of Modi’s vision for South and South-East Asian regional cooperation. It is also a neighbour that is increasingly being wooed by China. A large population of Indian origin (according to some estimates about 2.5 million) lives in Myanmar.
MoUs inked during the current visit between India & Myanmar
- Emphasized that regular high level interactions have added momentum to the bilateral relations
- Welcomed the synergies between Myanmar’s independent, active and non-aligned foreign policy and India’s ‘Act East’ and ‘Neighbourhood First’ policies
- Reaffirmed their commitments to further strengthen partnership, explore new avenues of cooperation in order to expand bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of the two countries and peoples.
- Demarcation: Both sides reiterated their mutual respect for the already- demarcated portion of the boundary between the two countries and affirmed their commitments to settle pending issues through the existing bilateral mechanisms, such as the Joint Boundary Working Group Meeting.
- The two sides emphasized the centrality of connectivity in their relationship and reaffirmed their commitments to expedite the completion of the various India-funded projects presently underway in Myanmar, with Myanmar’s continued support and facilitation towards their execution.
- Welcoming the opening of the two land border crossing points at Tamu-Moreh and Rihkhawdar-Zowkhawthar as international border gates, they noted the need to further facilitate the easy movement of passenger and cargo traffic by streamlining procedures and expeditiously developing infrastructure.
- Both sides agreed to work together for the earliest commencement of the project.
- The two sides committed to the early conclusion of discussions on the pending bilateral Motor Vehicles Agreement to facilitate cross border movement of vehicles. Both sides welcomed the MoU between their respective private operators to launch a Coordinated Bus Service between Imphal and Mandalay.
- Well-being of people: Both sides agreed to commence the establishment of the border haats, with a priority to carry out a pilot project, which was previously agreed by both sides in accordance with the MoU signed in 2012.
- Development Programmes: Both sides also expressed satisfaction at the success of the Myanmar-India Border Area Development Programmes in providing infrastructure and socio-economic development in Chin State and Naga Self-Administered Region through the Indian grant-in-aid projects. Under this, 43 schools, 18 health centres and 51 bridges and roads have been constructed in the above areas over the last three years. Both sides acknowledged with satisfaction that 29 additional projects under the 4th year’s tranche of assistance of US$ 5 million, will be implemented in 2020-21.
- Both leaders took note of the positive developments related to the Sittwe Port and the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project. Once operational, this port will contribute to the economic development of the region and benefit the local people.
- Both sides also reaffirmed their commitment to the early completion of the Paletwa-Zorinpui road – the final leg of the Kaladan project. Once completed, the road will connect Sittwe Port to North-East India, generating more traffic for the Port.
- India appreciated Myanmar’s cooperation and efforts in facilitating the movement of project personnel, construction material and equipment for the construction of the road component of Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project across the Mizoram border through Zorinpui southwards towards Paletwa.
- The two leaders took positive note of the progress of work on Kalewa – Yargyi road section of the Trilateral Highway, the work on which is expected to be completed by 2021. India reiterated its commitment to the early upgradation of the 69 bridges on the trilateral highway, with Myanmar agreeing to facilitate this.
Education & Capacity Building
- Myanmar appreciated India’s assistance in the area of capacity building and training. Both sides agreed to jointly make flagship projects, such as Myanmar Institute of Information and Technology (MIIT) and Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education (ACARE), sustainable on a long-term basis.
- Both leaders looked forward to the earliest upgradation of the Women’s Police Training Centre at Yamethin after finalization of modalities of the project.
- Both sides acknowledged the role which the Myanmar-India Industrial Training Centres at Pakokku and Myingyan, established with Indian grant assistance, are playing in imparting skills to Myanmar youth to enhance their employability. They noted efforts to build two new Centres at Monywa and Thaton which are progressing well.
- India reiterated its commitment to support Myanmar’s efforts for promoting peace, stability and the socioeconomic development in Rakhine State through the Rakhine State Development Programme.
- Myanmar appreciated India’s provision of 250 pre-fabricated houses and relief materials for displaced persons in northern Rakhine in 2019.
- Both sides agreed to expedite the implementation of a set of 12 projects under the second phase of the Rakhine State Development Programme and to further strengthen their development cooperation within the framework of High Impact Community Development Projects and Quick Impact Projects under the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation mechanism. In this regard, they welcomed the signing of the Agreement on Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIP) during the State Visit.
- India reaffirmed its support for the recent steps taken by the Government of Myanmar to address the challenges in Northern Rakhine.
- India also expressed its support for the bilateral agreements signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh for the repatriation of the displaced persons from Rakhine State and hoped that Myanmar and Bangladesh would continue to work together for voluntary, sustainable and speedy repatriation of displaced people currently in the Cox Bazar area of Bangladesh to Myanmar in accordance with their bilateral agreements
Bilateral trade and economic engagement
- The two sides noted the need to make efforts to enhance bilateral trade and economic engagement to their full potential. They noted that steps such as improving connectivity, market access, easing financial transactions, facilitating business-to-business connect and enabling bilateral and regional trading agreements would contribute to socio-economic development of both sides.
- Both sides agreed to work together to enable the launch of India’s RuPay Card in Myanmar at the earliest, noting that National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) needs to adhere to Myanmar laws and regulations and that the launch of RuPay Card would stimulate the economy of Myanmar and facilitate tourism and business from India.
- Agreed to explore the creation of an India-Myanmar digital payment gateway which would help expand options for cross border remittance between the two countries.
- Expressed interest in exploring a bilateral mechanism for settlement in local currency with the aim to boost cross border trade. In this regard, the two sides agreed to expeditiously convene the existing mechanism of India-Myanmar Joint Trade Committee meetings.
Both sides recognized the mutual benefit of greater integration in the energy sector between the two countries.
- India and Myanmar agreed to cooperate in the field of petroleum products, inter alia, for cooperation in refining, stockpiling, blending and retail through a Government-to-Government Memorandum of Understanding.
- Both sides agreed to encourage and facilitate cooperation among oil and gas companies of India and Myanmar for development of petroleum products, including enhancing trade and investments in this area.
- Both sides welcomed investments by Indian oil and gas Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) in Myanmar’s upstream sector and agreed that efforts would be made to explore opportunities to export to India a portion of the output from such projects where investments have been made by Indian oil and gas PSUs.
Defence and security
- Both sides reiterated that defence and security cooperation remains one of the key pillars of Myanmar-India bilateral relations. They commended the positive momentum in exchanging visits of defence personnel.
- MoU on Defence Cooperation, signed in July 2019, had set the path for closer cooperation.
- The Indian side reiterated its commitment to assist Myanmar in the capacity building of the Myanmar Defence Services and enhance cooperation to address mutual security concerns.
- Both sides reiterated their commitment to peace and stability along the border areas in order to promote the prosperity of the local people, the two countries and the region. They reiterated their commitment of not allowing any negative elements to use their respective soil for hostile activities against the other side.
- Welcomed the enhanced maritime cooperation between the two countries. They also recognized the importance of addressing maritime challenges and strengthening maritime security. Both leaders acknowledged the signing of an MoU on Maritime Security Cooperation (MSC), conduct of a first meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) in September 2019 and commencement of exchange of white shipping data, as important steps in the area.
- Emphasizing the importance of building a comprehensive legal framework for addressing mutual concerns on matters related to security, the two sides agreed to continue negotiations on various pending treaties such as a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Civil and Commercial Matters and the Extradition Treaty. They reiterated their commitment for an early conclusion of these. India welcomed the decision by Myanmar to extend Tourist Visa on Arrival for Indian citizens in Myanmar till December 2020.
The Myanmar side appreciated India’s offer of providing medical radiation equipment “Bhabhatron-2” for treatment of cancer patients. Both sides agreed to further strengthen cooperation in healthcare sector.
Peace and stability
- India reaffirmed its support for Myanmar’s efforts towards national reconciliation, peace process and democratic transition to establish a democratic federal union.
- The two sides expressed satisfaction over the various ongoing trainings , capacity building programmes, exposure visits and lecture series offered by India for Myanmar civil servants, sportsmen, parliamentarians, judicial and electoral officers and security personnel. India announced the extension of its National Knowledge Network (NKN) to Myanmar Universities.
- The Indian side also reiterated its readiness to support Myanmar in the establishment of the Myanmar Diplomatic Academy. Myanmar also noted with thanks India’s offer of providing technical assistance to the national ID project of Myanmar, based on India’s “Aadhar” project.
India also reaffirmed its support for Myanmar’s efforts toward national reconciliation and democratic transition to establish a democratic federal union. The Prime Minister of India expressed full support for Myanmar’s peace process, which is being pursued through a dialogue between the Government, Military and Ethnic Armed Groups under the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement framework. Both leaders underlined the importance of stability and peace in pursuing the shared national goal of development in the region.
- Recognizing the threat posed by terrorism, both sides agreed to cooperate in countering terrorist groups and their actions.
- Condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and emphasized the need for stronger international partnership in countering terrorism and violent extremism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence. They agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in this regard.
Further, the two sides agreed to
- Continue their close cooperation at international fora such as the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations
- Cooperate within other regional frameworks such as ASEAN, BIMSTEC, Mekong-Ganga Cooperation.
- Myanmar supported India’s efforts for becoming a permanent member in an expanded and reformed UNSC.
- The two sides reaffirmed their commitments to maintain a peaceful border and to promote the principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency, respect for international law and ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific region, which embraces all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity.
- Myanmar committed to take necessary steps to ratify the amendment to the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) at an early date, as part of an effort to enable all UN Member States to join the ISA and advance cooperation in the field of solar energy.
- Further, India reiterated the relevance of the Coalition of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) for disaster prone countries like India and Myanmar and encouraged Myanmar to consider joining the CDRI.
- India welcomed the inclusion of Bagan in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The two sides welcomed the commencement of a first phase of work by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to restore and conserve 12 pagodas under the first phase of a project to restore and conserve 92 earthquake-damaged pagodas in Bagan. Myanmar agreed to extend all necessary support to the ASI team, for undertaking this preservation work.
Connecting the Dots:
- A stable Myanmar is very crucial in order to realize the potential of act east policy of India. Discuss.
- Analyse the security challenges associated with Indo-Myanmar border
- What is the Rohingya Muslims issue? How is it affecting India’s interests and relations with Myanmar? Examine.