Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Commitments versus independent geopolitical interests
IFP Bureau | First Published: February 29, 2020 00:27:23 am
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During Myanmar President U Win Myint’s recent India visit, both the countries reiterated their strong commitment to further consolidate friendly and amicable bilateral ties between the countries. While India and Myanmar agreed to intensify engagements at all levels, both the countries also delineated  key focus areas that include mutual respect for the supposedly demarcated portion of the boundary between the countries. It was affirmed their commitments to settle pending issues through the existing bilateral mechanisms, such as the joint boundary working group meeting.

India and Myanmar had also welcomed the opening of the two land border crossing points at Tamu-Moreh and Rihkhawdar-Zowkhawthar as international border gates. The authorities of the two countries noted the need to further facilitate the easy movement of passenger and cargo traffic by streamlining procedures and expeditiously developing infrastructure.

The government of India also reiterated its commitment towards the construction of the modern integrated check post as Phase-I at Tamu, Myanmar. Both sides agreed to work together for the earliest commencement of the project. The two sides committed to the early conclusion of discussions on the pending bilateral Motor Vehicles Agreement to facilitate cross border movement of vehicles. Both India and Myanmar welcomed the MoU signed between their respective private operators to launch a coordinated bus service between Imphal and Mandalay by April 7, 2020.

The two sides are still looking forward to setting up of border haats after finalizing the mutually agreed Mode of Operation. The two countries appreciated the progress of work on Kalewa – Yargyi road section of the Trilateral Highway which is expected to be completed by 2021.

While India and Myanmar noted the need to enhance bilateral trade and economic engagement to their full potential, there is still the need to improve connectivity, market access, easing financial transactions, facilitating business-to-business connect and enabling bilateral and regional trading agreements would contribute to socio-economic development of both India and Myanmar.

The Myanmar President’s visit also assumes significance as the two countries reiterated that defence and security cooperation remains one of the key pillars of the bilateral relations. This basically means, both sides commended the positive momentum in exchanging visits of defence personnel. It is said that the signing of the MoU on defence cooperation in July 2019 had smoothened the path for closer cooperation. While India reiterated its commitment to assist Myanmar in the capacity building of the Myanmar defence services and enhance cooperation to address mutual security concerns. These security concerns are directly related to bringing peace and stability along the border areas and not allowing any elements to use India-Myanmar soil for hostile activities against the other side. The two sides agreed to continue negotiations on various pending treaties such as a mutual legal assistance treaty on civil and commercial matters and the extradition treaty.

Another significant move has been India’s support for Myanmar’s peace process, which is being pursued through a dialogue between the government, military and ethnic armed groups under the nationwide ceasefire agreement framework. The two countries had also agreed to cooperate in countering proscribed armed groups and their actions. Both sides emphasized the need for stronger international partnership in countering violent extremism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence. However, on the ground, these commitments seem to be stuck on muddy waters and it will be back to square one given the bigger geopolitical and strategic interests the two countries pursue independently.

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