Friday, October 14, 2011

India opens US$ 500 mil credit line for Burmese infrastructure, irrigation projects

Friday, 14 October 2011 21:08 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima)  – The Indian government announced a US $ 500 million credit line for developmental projects and agreed to expand security cooperation with Burma. At the conclusion of Burmese President Thein Sein’s four-day visit, Burmese and Indian leaders also agreed to strengthen economic, agricultural, energy, education and security ties.

The Indo-Asian News Service reported on its website that the leaders issued a joint statement in which: "The prime minister of India congratulated the president of Myanmar on the transition towards democratic government and offered all necessary assistance in further strengthening this democratic transition.”

Indian Minister for Science and Techology Vilasrao Deshmukh, right, and Burmese Minister of Science and Technology Aye Myint, left, sign an agreement on science cooperation. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, second on right, and Burmese President Thein Sein, second on left, look on at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday, October 14, 2011. India rolled out the red carpet for Thein Sein on a visit that followed his government's release of 198 political detainees -- the latest in a series of reformist moves. Photo: AFP

“The two leaders reiterated the assurance that the territory of either would not be allowed for activities inimical to the other and resolved not to allow their respective territory to be used for training, sanctuary and other operations by terrorists and insurgent organizations and their operatives," the joint statement said.

In September, during a visit by Burma’s Commerce Minister Win Myint, the two countries agreed to double bilateral trade to US$ 3 billion by 2015.

The $500 million credit line follows a similar $300 million scheme last year. A portion of the money will be used on infrastructure projects involving irrigation, the statement said. India buys most of Burma’s agricultural exports and wants its neighbour to raise output further by planting on idle land.

On Tuesday, The Times of India newspaper reported that Indian Maoist rebels, popularly known as Naxalites, had a plan to open training camps inside Burmese territory within weeks, according to seized documents. The Indian papers reported that at least eight Indian rebel groups were taking shelter in Burmese territory.

According to an Indian government report, Indian Minister of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises Shri Praful Patel and Burmese Minister of Industry No.2 Soe Thein held discussions about mutually beneficial collaboration between Indian and Burmese companies and industries, in an effort to forge closer ties.

India has been wooing Burma through cooperation in joint energy projects involving oil and natural gas, infrastructure projects and strengthening security cooperation, in an effort to counter the dominant influence of China within Burma. China is scheduled to become the recipient of oil and natural gas, which will pass through a pipeline stretching from the Bay of Bengal to the Sino-Burmese border. It is also financing the construction of at least seven dams on tributaries of the Irrawaddy River.

Observers say India is courting Burma in an effort to balance Chinese influence in the country, which is a natural geographic buffer between the two countries.

The Voice of America reported on Thursday that Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said New Delhi was pleased that ties with Burma are gaining momentum.

“Relationships are a process, it is a building process and I consciously did note that both in terms of content and substance and the sweep of the relationship, certainly it's an upwards trajectory, there is no doubt about that,” he said.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Indian ties with Burma range from security, trade, energy, and infrastructure development, to education and agriculture. He said roads and a port being developed by India in Burma would give the remote northeastern Indian states easier access to port facilities and boost their economic development.

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