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05 Sep 2017

Modi to discuss Rohingyas, infrastructure, trade, security during Myanmar trip

Indian PM Narendra Modi is visiting Myanmar where he will be meeting President Htin Kyaw and leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

During his three-day visit, he's expected to discuss the rising violence in the Rohingya Muslim-dominated western Rakhine state and push for more progress on India-sponsored infrastructure projects.

Good relations with Myanmar are crucial for the success of the Modi's 'Act East' policy.

In context

Why good relations with Myanmar matter to India

Rohingya violence a matter of concern for India

The violence in Rakhine has left around 400 people dead and forced nearly 125,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh. The Rohingya exodus remains a matter of concern for India as well. Last month, India said it planned to deport 40,000 Rohingya refugees.


Unrest in Rakhine could dent India's northeast connectivity plans

India shares a 1,600-km border with Myanmar and considers it the gateway to trade with Southeast Asia.

Rakhine matters for India because it's the starting point of the much-delayed $484-million Kaladan multi-modal transport projects.

These would boost road connectivity between the remote northeast and the rest of India.

The northeast would also be able to access the Indian-built port of Sittwe in Myanmar.

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Expert: Rohingya violence a 'vexed and complex' issue for India

"It's going to be a very vexed and complex issue," Tridivesh Singh Maini, an expert on ties with Myanmar, told Reuters. Maini says India will have to bring up the issue smartly by explaining its regional implications without forcefully offering solutions.

The China factor

India has failed to check China's growing influence in Myanmar

India has not done enough to improve ties with Myanmar, allowing China to increase its influence on the country.

China has emerged as a major business and strategic partner to Myanmar.

Beijing has offered support to both Suu Kyi and the powerful Myanmar military who have come under Western pressure over the Rohingya violence.

Modi must find a way to counter this Chinese influence.

Modi's visit could bring much-needed boost to bilateral trade

Trade ties

Modi's visit could bring much-needed boost to bilateral trade

The annual bilateral trade between India and Myanmar stands at just $2.2 billion and there's much potential to increase this.

The Indian-funded infrastructure projects in Myanmar are also progressing at slow pace.

Modi would be seeking to improve trade and investment ties with the mineral-rich Myanmar.

Meanwhile, Myanmar would seek assurances that India could be a reliable economic partner and an alternative to China.

Defense and terrorism

India needs Myanmar's support to counter northeast insurgency

Myanmar shares a long porous border with India's north-eastern states, allowing many anti-India insurgent groups to set up bases and training camps there.

Both countries are working towards addressing India's security concerns but more needs to be done.

India is also looking to emerge as an important supplier of defense equipment to Myanmar, especially for its navy and coast guard.

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