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India to aid in Myanmar's democratic process

Publication Date : 28-05-2012


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who arrived in this brand new Myanmarese capital this evening to a warm welcome on a three-day visit, assured the newly elected government of President U Thein Sein that India will do everything possible to “share its democratic experience to make that country's democratic institutions stronger”, and lauded the steps taken by President Thein Sein for "leading the country towards a broadbased and inclusive reconciliation process’’.

Both India and Myanmar together, he said, will consider taking new initiatives and defining a road map for future development.

The Prime Minister’s observations have been interpreted by Myanmarese officials here as a move to "further strengthen President Thein Sein's continuing moves to effect meaningful political reforms and ensure Myanmar's gradual evolution into a genuine democracy.

President Thein Sein, who is a former military commander and well known for his liberal democratic outlook, has made over the past one year a series of liberalising gestures which include release of hundreds of political prisoners, lifting of censorship, holding peace talks with armed ethnic groups besides releasing from house arrest pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and allowing her and her political party National League for Democracy to freely and successfully contest the recent parliamentary bypolls.

Myanmarese officials pointed out that Singh’s comments will give further momentum to the democratisation and reconciliation process that President Thein Sein has long initiated. What has made them very happy is that the “friendly  statement” has come not from a Prime Minister of a distant land but from someone who heads the government of the world's largest democracy next door.

The pro-democracy elements in the government are happy with the sentiments expressed by the Indian Prime Minister  as this will further help the reformers like President Thein Sein to go on the ascending path of reforms and push the hardline ultranationalists further to the background. Further democratisation will also mean that the West, especially the USA, will sooner rather than later start lifting sanctions and restrictions imposed on Myanmar two decades ago.

The local officials label the Prime Minister’s visit as “belated” as there is a growing alarm even among the ordinary Myanmarese about China’s all pervasive grip over Myanmar.

They rue the fact that despite India enunciating its “look East policy” almost two decades ago, it took the Indian Prime Minister  a quarter of a century to visit the next door neighbour with whom India has a common border of over 1600 km besides common culture, history, heritage and  demography.

Two senior officials whose parents were  graduates of Calcutta University and were Rangoon based officials of the Bengal presidency during the British Raj are extremely nostalgic about Myanmar's Bengal connection. Rangoon colleges were affiliated to Calcutta University until 1920 when the British set up a separate university in Rangoon.

alcutta High Court, too, had jurisdiction over Rangoon in judicial matters.

No wonder Manmohan Singh is trying to revive Myanmar's Kolkata connection by including the Calcutta University Vice chancellor Suranjan Das in his official entourage. He wants Myanmarese students and scholars to come to Calcutta University in large numbers to pursue higher studies. The Myanmar government wants the local Dagon University to have a tie-up with Calcutta University.

Myanmarese officials said they wanted their students to go to Calcutta University  to pursue courses in International Relations, oriental studies, geography, and satellite mapping.

Suranjan Das said here today that Myanmarese keenness to study in Kolkata had encouraged him to set up a Myanmar study centre in Calcutta University.

"Setting up the centre has become important as we know so little about present Myanmar which is so important for our national interest. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given his blessings and pledged the government of India's support for the centre.”


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