Monday, 30th October 2017

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Focus on rebels in Myanmar pact Democracy on general?s lips

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  • Published 25.10.04

New Delhi, Oct. 25: Visiting Myanmar military ruler Senior General Than Shwe today told his hosts his country will not allow its soil to be used by Northeast insurgents against Indian interests.

The State Peace and Development Committee chairman also expressed his ?sincere commitment? to restore democracy in his country, a week after ousting a fellow general credited with setting in motion a roadmap for change.

The military strongman, the first head of government from Yangon to visit India in 24 years, said it was the only way to bring peace and prosperity to his country, now under army rule for several years.

If Shwe promised a co-ordinated operation with Indian troops along the 1,400-km border between the two countries, it was not said publicly. But expressing the intent to do so, Myanmar today signed a memorandum of understanding with India for cooperation in ?non-traditional security issues?. The MoU was signed by foreign minister K. Natwar Singh and his counterpart Nyan Win.

It was explained later that the MoU would enhance cooperation between the two sides against terrorism, arms smuggling, money laundering, drug trafficking, international economic violations and cyber crimes.

The mechanism for cooperation includes exchange of information and personnel, co-ordination between law enforcement agencies and joint research. Two other MoUs on cooperation in hydroelectric projects in Myanmar and for stronger cultural ties were also signed.

Shwe?s assurance will give the Indian government an additional handle to urge Bangladesh to follow Yangon?s example. Bhutan had launched a military operation last year to flush out Northeast insurgents from its soil. With Myanmar also committing itself against the rebels of the Northeast, Dhaka might find it a little more difficult to be indifferent to Delhi?s security concerns.

Bangladesh foreign minister Morshed Khan is arriving here at the end of the month and the issue of camps of Northeast rebels in Bangladesh will most likely make its way into the discussions between him and the leadership in Delhi.

Shwe met almost all key members of the Indian leadership, including President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Predictably, along with the presence of Northeast insurgents in Myanmar the issue of democracy also came up during the discussions. Many members of the ruling Congress-led coalition, particularly the foreign minister, have been ardent supporters of Myanmarese democratic leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest.

Shwe explained to the Indian leaders that an exercise is on in Myanmar to prepare a new constitution for the country which would have the ?widest possible national consensus?. He pointed out that Myanmar has several ethnic groups whose views and aspirations should be met by the new constitution. As India has a well-established democratic tradition, the SPDC chairman sought Delhi?s help in the current exercise.

The Indian leaders agreed with him that transition to democracy was a ?complex? process, but both the Prime Minister as well as the foreign minister underlined that democracy offered the best possibilities for political stability and economic development.