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India asks Myanmar to expedite reconciliation

Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: India has reiterated its request to the Myanmar Government to accelerate moves towards a more inclusive democracy.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, during his two-day visit to Myanmar which ended on Sunday, conveyed New Delhi’s concern over the detained political activists including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the need to involve her more intimately in promoting political reconciliation.

The Myanmar Government has unveiled plans to hold a referendum on a new Constitution, which it has assured will form the basis for elections. But the political stalemate continues as Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has slammed the move to hold a referendum without holding consultations.

Mr. Menon pointed to the need for broad-based political reforms. In a departure from the position taken by the West, India opposes sanctions as it believes they would hit most the marginal and the destitute.

“The desire for sanctions is directly proportional to their distance from Myanmar,” a top Foreign Office recently observed about western demands for further isolating the country. India shares over 1,400 km of porous border with Myanmar that is still the staging post for insurgencies. It is also negotiating an access route through the country to its north-eastern States.

India has noted the movement towards reconciliation by Myanmar including four rounds of talks between a Government representative and Ms. Suu Kyi since the thaw in the military regime’s attitude about four months ago. Around the same time, Myanmar signalled its readiness for a discourse with multilateral institutions by permitting United Nations official Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to assess the human rights situation. Four years earlier his entry had been barred following a disagreement with the regime. Since then, the military regime led by Senior General Than Shwe has entered into sporadic contacts with U.N. officials.

New Delhi’s stand operates within the parameters defined by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee: “We want political reforms and the process of reconciliation to start immediately and it has to be inclusive.As far as possible, important political prisoners should be released.”

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