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Delhi revives link with Suu Kyi

New Delhi, July 23: India’s foreign secretary Nirupama Rao met Aung San Suu Kyi in the first high-level contact with the Myanmarese pro-democracy leader in years, government sources confirmed today.

Rao, who was in Yangon on June 22 as part of foreign minister S.M. Krishna’s delegation, met Suu Kyi in her villa a day after her birthday and “had a long conversation free of tension”, the sources said.

Since presenting Suu Kyi with the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1992, New Delhi has moved away from being her solid political backer to a low-key but studied engagement with Myanmar’s junta. For much of the time in the intervening years, Suu Kyi was under house arrest before being freed in November last year.

In these years, India had increased its ties Myanmar, especially in defence co-operation, much to the consternation of the West that has imposed sanctions on the country.

The sources said Rao, during her meeting with Suu Kyi, emphasised that India had a long border with Myanmar and had its own interests. Though they did not elucidate, these are concerns over Northeast rebels who move across the border for shelter and support.

India was also closely watching the deep engagement that the Chinese had in Myanmar. Rao found a patient audience in Suu Kyi, the sources said.

Myanmar’s government restricts foreigners’ access to Suu Kyi even though she is not under house arrest.

The foreign secretary is understood to have told Suu Kyi she hoped the Myanmarese opposition leader would be able to visit India. Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, is an alumnus of Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi.

The foreign secretary was “warmly received” by Suu Kyi. Rao found that Suu Kyi is a “very people-oriented person” who was keeping in touch with youth not only in her own country but also abroad.

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