Army Chief and Foreign Secretary to visit Myanmar

New Delhi: Amid coronavirus pandemic, India’s Army Chief MM Naravane and Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla will be visiting Myanmar next week and will be in the country on Monday. The visit comes ahead of China’s attempt of influencing countries in India’s neighbourhood. India is making attempts to strengthen the ties with neighbouring countries.

This is the first visit of Army Chief outside the country as of India-China tensions at the Line of Actual Control. Interestingly he has served as India’s defence attached to Myanmar in the past. For foreign secretaries it will be the second visit outside the country amid the COVID pandemic.  He made an earlier visit to Bangladesh. Last week, he had a virtual meet with his Myanmar counterpart– Permanent Secretary, U Soe Han. During the meet, he told him, New Delhi will operationalize the Sittwe port in the first quarter of next year.  Shringla announced that the two sides are working to operationalize Sittwe port by the first quarter of 2021 while the tendering process for 69 bridges for the trilateral highway, also involving Thailand, will begin soon.

“Despite the challenges caused by the COVID pandemic, we are working towards operationalizing the Sittwe Port by the first quarter of next year,” Shringla said.

India’s assistance to Myanmar currently stands at $1.4 billion, and New Delhi will provide debt service relief under the G20 debt service suspension initiative to Myanmar from May to December to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

COVID-19 crisis, vaccine and Rohingya repatriation were other key issues of the meet. The meeting will also focus the security on borders. On the security front, Myanmar recently handed over 22 Indian insurgents which was “deeply appreciated by the Government of India and sends a strong message of deterrence to inimical elements on both sides”, FS said at the meet.

The Rohingya are worst hit by coronavirus as they are being detained in a refugee camp. Rohingya who numbered around one million in Myanmar at the start of 2017, are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country. Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine state.

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