PM to invite Suu Kyi to visit India

NEW DELHI 24 May 2012: PM Manmohan Singh will extend an invitation to Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to visit India when he meets her on Tuesday. Suu Kyi has not travelled abroad in 24 years but has accepted the invitation to visit Britain and Norway in June.

Singh, who will start his three-day visit to Myanmar on Sunday, will hold talks with Myanmar's President Thein Sein on Monday before his much awaited meeting, as TOI had reported earlier, with Suu Kyi the next day in Yangon. Like China, India earlier sent "feelers" to Suu Kyi after her party's victory in the recent by-elections that it was willing to host her but this is the first time that the PM himself will officially invite her.

Singh's visit to Myanmar, the first by an Indian prime minister in 25 years, will also see the two countries discussing measures to step up trade and expand connectivity by signing several agreements, including a revised aviation pact to increase the number of flights between them and by discussing India's proposal to open a bus route from Imphal to Mandalay. Government officials said both the issues are likely to be cleared by the Cabinet on Thursday.

While the revised aviation agreement will see flights to Myanmar from 18 Indian cities, many onwards to other destinations in southeast Asia, it is India's proposal for a bus link to Mandalay via Moreh which doesn't seem to have curried favour with Naypyidaw.

During Thein Sein's visit to India last year, the two sides had agreed, as mentioned in the joint statement, to study the feasibility of not just expanding air connectivity but also establishing bus and ferry services. "It was our proposal to open a bus route to Mandalay from Imphal and while we hope it happens, so far there is no indication from Myanmar that it is willing to go ahead with an agreement during the PM's visit next week,'' said an official.

Both leaders will also look at the possibility of commencing ferry services on the Kolkata-Yangon and Chennai-Yangon routes.

India is also likely to announce yet another line of credit for Myanmar during Singh's visit but the amount has not yet been disclosed. India had announced a $300 million line of credit in 2010 and another $500 million last year.

Indian companies like Gail, Essar and ONGC have made substantial investments in Myanmar's off-shore and on-shore blocks and in construction of natural gas pipelines. India is hoping that Myanmar will agree to encourage further investments by Indian companies, both in public and private sector, in the oil and natural gas sectors. They are also likely to announce opening of new border trading points along the border.

Singh and Thein Sein will also review implementation of the crucial Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project which will link the northeast to Myanmar coast and through it to the Indian mainland reducing India's dependence on the Siliguri corridor or chicken's neck. The project involves port development and inland waterways.
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