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Suu Kyi urges India to help Myanmar

Publication Date : 15-11-2012


Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has asked for India's help in her country's transition towards democracy.

"We haven't yet achieved the goal of democracy... We hope in this last, most difficult phase, people of India will stand and walk by us," she said late yesterday.

The forum for her remarks was particularly apt. She made them while delivering the Jawaharlal Nehru memorial lecture to mark the birth anniversary of India's first post-independence prime minister.

Wearing a bright yellow blouse and sarong with matching flowers in her hair, Suu Kyi said her 15 years under house arrest were enriched by the writings of Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru.

She said she was "saddened that India had drawn away from us", in reference to India's decision in the early 1990s to reach out to the military junta.

Suu Kyi spoke of personal memories of Nehru, a good friend of her father General Aung San, prompting a standing ovation from a hall filled with India's top leaders and diplomats. Also present were teachers and students from the Convent of Jesus and Mary and Lady Shri Ram College, the school and college where she once studied.

Indeed, Suu Kyi's visit to India was a "homecoming", said Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who openly expressed her admiration for the Nobel laureate by calling her "one of the most remarkable figures of our time".

India has rolled out the red carpet for the democracy icon. Foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai received her at the airport on Tuesday and so far she has met the top Indian leadership from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Suu Kyi's visit to India, a country she spent a good part of her formative years in, comes two years after she was released from house arrest following an end to military rule.

The civilian government in Myanmar led by President Thein Sein has initiated a series of economic and political reforms and allowed Ms Suu Kyi to participate in the political process.

India too started reaching out to Suu Kyi last year, when then foreign secretary Nirupama Rao met her in Myanmar.

Suu Kyi, who has emphasised improving people-to-people ties with the world's largest democracy through her visit, met Singh yesterday for the second time this year.

In a 30-minute discussion, they touched on the national reconciliation process in Myanmar and the transition to democracy.

Singh applauded her for her courage.

"Our good wishes are with you as indeed with your struggle for democracy," he said.

Foreign policy analysts said her visit to India showed that Suu Kyi was looking to the future.

"Those who follow Myanmar must recognise the situation is complex. It is not a black-and-white situation," said former Indian ambassador to Myanmar Rajiv Bhatia. "We are seeing transition to democracy... we haven't seen full-fledged democracy. This is the the point she is making repeatedly: We need help from India in terms of getting Myanmar to move towards democracy."

Suu Kyi's visit to India is seen to be aimed at cementing ties that had cooled over India's engagement with the junta.

But all that seemed to be in the past as she visited different parts of Delhi, where she spent time as a teenager.

On Deepavali day, she spent a quiet day with college friend Malavika Karlekar and went for a walk in Lodhi Gardens, a historical garden in Delhi.

"I am glad that I can still recognise parts of Delhi," Suu Kyi told an Indian television channel.

Tomorrow, she will visit the Lady Shri Ram college in New Delhi, where she graduated with a degree in politics, and meet refugees from Myanmar.


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