01/03/2008, 00.00
INDIA – MYANMAR
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Myanmar needs “urgent” reforms but business is business

In talks with Burmese foreign minister India’s prime minister Singh urges Myanmar to promote “national reconciliation.” The latter however remains a distant prospect. Meanwhile the two South Asian neighbours agree on a US$ 100 million project that would give India’s north-eastern states access to the sea.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – India is urging Myanmar to launch broad-based political reforms and initiate a process of “national reconciliation” with all sectors of society involved, including pro-democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, whose is currently under house arrest, and the country’s ethnic minorities. At the same time India is also pursuing its economic interests and trade goals with the former Burma despite the generals’ inaction vis-à-vis demands of the international community.

Bilateral relations between the two neighbours were at the centre of talks held yesterday in New Delhi between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Myanmar Foreign Minister U Nyan Win.

India has been an ally of Myanmar for some time. Following the crisis caused by the repression of monk-led protests in September, India has become one of the few powers along with China that can exert any real pressure on the ruling junta in Myanmar’s new capital of Naypydaw.

In yesterday’s meeting the two countries agreed to a US$ 100 million project on the Kaladan River that will provide a transit route from India's north-eastern states to the sea. The project includes building waterways and roads along the river as well as developing the port in Sittwe. Goods could thus flow directly into the Indian state of Mizoram.

Experts believe that the project might be delayed however over concern in India that China might also invest in Sittwe port to secure a south-western sea base for itself.

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