India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to officially visit the country of Myanmar which, up until recently, has been almost totally isolated within the international community under multiple sanctions set in place by multiple organizations and countries. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has long been under the iron control of a genocidal military junta. Singh’s visit as Prime Minister will be the first such visit to Myanmar in over 25 years.
Now that the elections, which some say are still for appearance so that Myanmar can be freed of the sanctions, have been held, a few reforms including the release of thousands of political prisoners were passed, and Nobel laureate and long-time dissident Aung San Suu Kyi has won a political position, the country has been gradually opening up.
While many businesses are still wary of entering and investing in Myanmar, the powerhouses in the region including India and China have been jumping right in as part of a geopolitical struggle for the upper hand.
Prime Minister Singh’s visit this Sunday will be one of India’s first moves in making its presence known in Myanmar to offset the more larger presence of its rival China which had poured billions into Myanmar’s infrastructure for the past couple of decades.
India has a long way to go before its bilateral trade with Myanmar, which is currently estimated to be just over 1 billion U.S. dollars, reaches the level of China’s bilateral trade with Myanmar which is currently estimated to be almost 4.5 billion U.S. dollars.
India, in addition to attempting to further cap China, will be searching for energy opportunities in the oil and gas rich Myanmar as well for its economy and ever rising population.
Prime Minister Singh’s visit follows a previous visit by Myanmar’s controversial President Thein Sein to India.
During Prime Minister Singh’s visit, the two governments’ representatives will discuss plans regarding the construction of a bus link between India’s Manipur capital city of Imphal and the Burmese city of Mandalay along with the establishment of air routes between the two countries for travel.
The two sides will discuss more about India’s financial assistance in creating multiple research centers for agriculture and technology along with the construction of numerous roads and ports.
After the discussions, the Indian delegation is expected to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi to show its continuing support for the pro-democracy leader and her political party the National League for Democracy despite the Indian government’s past interactions with the military junta and refusal to abide by American and European sanctions in isolating Myanmar.
Meanwhile, a delegation made up of CEOs of the behemoth Indian corporations will also be visiting Myanmar to tour the country and ponder future decisions in investing while preparing for an auction held by Myanmar selling blocks of areas purported to be rich in natural gas onshore and offshore.
(Cover Photo: pmindia.nic.in)