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India offers $10m credit to Myanmar

India offers $10m credit to Myanmar

By V. Jayanth

The Hindu (New Delhi), November 8, 1997

Singapore, Nov. 7

India today offered a $10 million line of credit to the Union of
Myanmar, as a gesture of good will and to promote bilateral trade and
economic cooperation.

Inaugurating the second Indian Trade Exhibition in Yangon, the Minister
of State for External Affairs, Mr. Saleem I. Shervani, said it would be
a Government-to-Government credit, reflecting the commitment of the
government of India for closer economic cooperation with Myanmar.

Mr. Shervani said ties with Myanmar were going well beyond the bilateral
level, with the eastern neighbour also joining the recently launched
Bangladesh-India-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Cooperation (BISTEC) forum.

He said Myanmar's entry into Asean could also make it India's gateway to
the markets in South-East Asia.

Speaking on the occasion, Myanmar's Minister for Commerce, Lt. Gen. Tun
Kyi, invited Indian investors to take advantage of the opportunities
offered by Myanmar, for investment and trade.

This Indian exhibition is being organised jointly by the Indian Trade
Promotion Organisation (ITPO) and the Embassy of India. It is being held
from November 7 to 13 at the famous Tamadaw Hall in Yangon.

According to Mr. Shyam Saran, India's Ambassador to Myanmar, over 50
Indian companies were participating in the exhibition with a wide range
of products and technology on show. It covered engineering items,
transport equipment, chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, handicraft,
household goods and leather products. The present of a retinue of
Myanmar Ministers and top military brass in the ruling State Law and
Order Restoration Council (SLORC) at the opening ceremony today was a
clear valued such Ministerial visits from India, which has been rare.
According to one source, the previous visit was by the then Commerce
Minister, Mr. P.Chidambaram, who came to inaugurate the first exhibition
in February, 1995.

Among those present today were the Foreign Minister, Mr. Ohn Gyaw, the
Transport Minister Lt. Gen. Thein Win, the Mayor of Yangon, Mr. Ko Lay,
the Quarter Master General of the Armed forces, Lt. Gen. Tin Hla and the
Minister in the office of the Chairman of SLORC, Lt. Gen. Min Thein.

The exhibition is being organised as part of the Embassy's celebrations
of the 50th anniversary of India's Independence. The ITPO and the
Myanmar Investment Commission are holding a seminar on November 10 on
'India Myanmar Trade and Investment Cooperation in the context of
Myanmar's entry into Asean'.

Mr. Shervani, who is on a two-day visit to Myanmar, also called on Lt.
Gen. Khin Nyunt, Secretary-1, SLORC, this morning. The Myanmar Foreign
Minister, Mr. Ohn Gyaw, and the Indian Ambassador, Mr. Shyam Saran, were
present on the occasion.

Discussions centred on bilateral relations and the prospects for
increasing trade and economic relations. The two sides traced the
historic relations between the two countries and wanted the business
community to take more steps to make better use of the border-trade
agreement signed two years ago. The problem on the field, both in terms
of infrastructure and the bottlenecks for enhanced border trade figured
in the deliberations.

Mr. Shervani left in the evening for New Delhi, obviously taking back
some very serious suggestions from the military rulers in Myanmar. His
visit was very well received by the generals, but also raised the basic
and recurring question in bilateral ties with this neighbour - Should
India set aside its inherent concerns about a military junta that wants
to suppress a democratically elected political party and continue to do

There are two sides to this coin. Myanmar is strategically too important
for New Delhi to ignore just because there is a junta in power. The
activities of some of the terrorist groups functioning in the North-
eastern States, spilling over into the eastern neighbours like
Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand has to be borne in mind, as also the
thrust that China is making into Myanmar.

Traditionally, Indians have supported the prodemocracy groups and the
larger movement of the Myanmarese people. Many Myanmarese have fled to
India since the crackdown on prodemocracy activists in 1988-89 and have
been campaigning for increased support from India.

Instead of putting Myanmar on the back burner till the third trade
exhibition perhaps in the year 2000, it may be worthwhile for India to
evolve a more effective policy for this neighbour.

The posting of Mr. Shyam Saran, who was earlier in Mauritius, was
considered the harbinger for such an approach to Myanmar and he has been
able to put up this fair within the first few months of his functioning
in Yangon.