The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 4 , 2014
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Pragmatism key to PM farewell meet
Security on Myanmar agenda

Nay Pyi Taw (Myanmar), March 3: Manmohan Singh will balance India’s security concerns with its pragmatic interests during his two-day trip to Myanmar to attend tomorrow’s Bimstec summit and bid farewell to neighbourhood leaders.

Singh arrived here today for the summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, whose members include India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

He was scheduled to meet Myanmar President U. Thein Sein and the new Nepal Premier, Sushil Koirala, today. Tomorrow, he is to make back-to-back calls on Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and Bhutan, Sheikh Hasina and Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay.

Before Singh returns to Delhi, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the chairperson and general secretary of the National League for Democracy, will visit him at his hotel.

Indian officials said Singh would flag New Delhi’s security concerns and not let the seriousness of his interactions be clouded by any perception that, as outgoing Prime Minister, his words and gestures might amount to mere tokenism.

Singh is expected to convey to Rajapaksa that Colombo needs to do “much more” to facilitate reconciliation with the island’s Tamils.

Sheikh Hasina (left) speaks with Aung San Suu Kyi at a meeting in Myanmar on Monday. (AP)

In the matter of Myanmar extraditing India’s northeastern militants, though, New Delhi believes that since Myanmar’s militants too are hiding in India, this is a “mutual” issue that both must tackle within the bounds of their “capabilities” and “limits”.

It is understood that India is on the whole “satisfied” with the cooperation it has received from Myanmar.

“Some of our most important bilateral relationships are not on-off ones and depend on political calculations. Our priority will be to weave details into the broad discussions,” an official said.

Therefore, despite the DMK’s bellicosity at Singh’s impending interaction with Rajapaksa, the Prime Minister is expected to convey to him that India would “like to see much more in the process of reconciliation (with the island’s Tamils)”.

Also, when the United Nations Human Rights Council’s third resolution against Sri Lanka’s alleged rights violations is put to vote in March, officials said, India “will pursue its national interest”.

Sources said it was a “foregone conclusion” that India would vote against the resolution, as it had done last time. They, however, denied that the second resolution had been “diluted” at India’s instance.

“I’m not sure if anyone ever said to the PM not to talk (to Rajapaksa),” foreign minister Salman Khurshid said. “The PM made a decision and I hope people appreciate that decision. India is committed to the Sri Lankan Tamil cause; we will do what is in the interests of the two nations.”

DMK sources said the party had been forced to raise the pitch of its pro-Tamil campaign after Jayalalithaa announced her intention to free those convicted in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

Asked if India was anxious about the prospect of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the hard-line Jamaat-e-Islami dominating the country’s local elections, an official said: “We don’t see any direct relationship between this and our security cooperation with Bangladesh. These are permanent relationships.”

Sources also ruled out an “adversarial” relationship with Myanmar despite the recent killing of two Indians in that country by people who are still unidentified and the ambiguity created over border demarcations by the placement of nine contentious pillars.

Asked if these incidents might affect perceptions in parts of the Northeast in the run-up to the general election, a source said: “We have our permanent interests on security and these are never mixed up with elections.”

The sources said the killing of the two Indians had “agitated Myanmar as much as India” and both sides were “equally interested to see that the perpetrators are brought to justice”.