04/03/2008, 00.00
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India and Myanmar: economic cooperation in the millions

In spite of international pressure to boycott the military junta, New Delhi is accelerating its economic plans: the military second in command and the Indian vice president sign an agreement for the construction of a vast network of freight transport, which will guarantee the eastern part of the union access to the sea and to energy resources.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Ignoring international pressure for a variety of sanctions against the bloody Burmese junta, India continues to cultivate its economic interests in Myanmar.  Yesterday in New Delhi, the vice president of the union, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, and the second in command of the military regime, General Maug Aye, on official visit, signed an agreement for the construction of a vast network of freight transport between the two countries, valued at 120 million dollars. 

The Indian foreign minister, who announced the agreement, did not provide any further details.  The project, which has been under discussion since 2003, will guarantee the northeastern states of India access to the sea, avoiding the passage through Bangladesh, which so far is refusing transit permission to New Delhi.  Plans provide for the construction of pipelines and roads along the Kaladan River - northwest of the former Burma - and improvements to the port of Sittwe, from which freight will be able to pass directly to Mizoram - in eastern India - along the same waterway.  According to the protocol for the related financial agreements, Myanmar will contribute 10 million dollars, while the rest will be the responsibility of the Indian union.

In this way India also intends to secure better access to energy resources, which Myanmar has in abundance, and to counter the strong Chinese influence in the area.  Speaking only of natural gas, the former Burma possesses reserves (about 2,500 billion cubic metres) equal to 1.4% of the total worldwide.  Three Indian companies are already operating in the sector, exploring Burmese gas and oil deposits: Essar, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, and the Gas Authority of India Ltd. The latter two are state-owned. And to ensure the collaboration of the regime, the "largest democracy in the world" continues to carry forward its policy of "non-interference" according to which the persecution of monks and activists is an "internal affair" of its neighbour

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