Roundup: Myanmar, India work for closer economic cooperation
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YANGON, Jul. 25, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe left Nay Pyi Taw Sunday to start a five-day goodwill visit to India at the invitation of Indian President Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

The visit of Than Shwe, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, will be the top agenda on economic cooperation between the two countries and border security, diplomatic sources said.

Than Shwe is expected to meet with Pratibha and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi for bilateral talks.

In February 2009, Indian Vice-President Shri M. Hamid Ansari visited Nay Pyi Taw, during which Myanmar and India reached three memorandums of understanding (MoU) on economic cooperation -- instrument of ratification on bilateral investment promotion and protection, establishment of an English language training center in Yangon with Indian assistance and setting up of an industrial training center in Myanmar's Pakkoku.

Ansari also inaugurated the first cross-border optical fiber telephone link between the two countries set up in Myanmar's second largest city of Mandalay.

The 7-million-US-dollar high-speed broadband link for voice and data transmission connects Mandalay and India's border town of Moreh in Manipur which are separated by a distance of 500 km.

Moreover, Ansari inaugurated the Myanmar-India Entrepreneurship Development Center set up at the Institute of Economics at the Hlaing University in Yangon. March

Myanmar and India have been cooperating in transport and the upgradation work of a Myanmar-India border road stretching as Kalewa-Kale-Tamu on the Myanmar side is targeted to complete by this year.

The 160-km Myanmar-India Friendship Road, built in 1999 by India's border road task force in cooperation with Myanmar and opened in February 2001, is being upgraded by Myanmar engineers and skilled workers of the two countries as some sections deteriorated.

The border road, which forms an important link from the India- Myanmar border to central Myanmar and the commercial and cultural center of Mandalay, also constitutes part of the Asian highway and plays an important role for Myanmar in trading with India and member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN).

During the World War-II, the border road extending from India was part of a highway known as the Burma Road crossing into Myanmar's Tamu from India's Moreh and from Tamu the road leads to Monywa and Mandalay through Kalewa and Kale respectively.

Moreover, India is helping Myanmar upgrade the country's western port of Sittway in Rakhine state under a revised system of Build, Transfer, Use (BTU) instead of that of Build, Operate, Transfer (BOT) of a multi-modal Kaladan river transport project.

During the visit to New Delhi of Vice-Chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council Vice Senior-General Maung Aye in April last year, India and Myanmar signed a framework agreement along with two other documents on the construction and operation of a 120-million-USD multi-modal transit and transport facility on the Kaladan River connecting the Sittway Port in Myanmar with the Indian state of Mizoram.

The framework agreement includes upgrading of Sittway Port of Myanmar, improvement tasks for running of vessels along the route of Kaladan from Sittway Port to Sitpyitpyin and construction of roads from Sitpyitpyin to the border region.

Specifically, the project will cover upgrading of both motor roads and waterways in those parts in northwestern Chin state to enable Indian cargo vessels along the Kaladan river in Sittway's eastern bank to berth at Paletwa where a high-standard port is to be built through which a highway will also be built to enable access to the border area of Myeikwa in the state for commodity flow to India's Mizoram state.

Meanwhile, proposed by India, Myanmar is also making feasibility study to build a deep-sea port in the country's southern coastal Tanintharyi division to facilitate maritime trade with neighboring countries.

The prospective Dawei deep-sea port project stands one of the priorities among future programs of the seven-member Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation ( BIMSTEC) which now comprises Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.

Moreover, Myanmar is also conducting survey to build still another deep-sea port on the Maday Island in Kyaukphyu, western coastal Rakhine state, to serve as a transit trade center for goods destined to port cities of Chittagong, Yangon and Calcutta.

According to official statistics, Myanmar-India bilateral trade reached 1.19 billion U.S. dollars in the fiscal year of 2009-10, increasing by 26.1 percent from the previous year and standing as Myanmar's fourth largest trading partner after Thailand, China and Singapore.

Of the total, Myanmar's export to India amounted to one billion U.S. dollars, while its import from India was valued at 194 million dollars, the Central Statistical Organization said.

Agricultural produces and forestry products led in Myanmar's exports to India whereas medicines and pharmaceutical products topped its imports from India.

Myanmar has opened two border trade points with India, the first being Tamu in April 1995, while the second being Reedkhawdhar in January 2004.

Meanwhile, India's contracted investment in Myanmar reached 189 million U.S. dollars as of March 2010 since the government opened to foreign investment in 1988, of which 137 million were drawn into the oil and gas sector in September 2007, the statistics showed.

In March this year, an Indian company, the Ta Ta Motors Ltd, reached a 20-million-US-dollar contract with the Myanmar industrial authorities to produce heavy trucks in Myanmar with a plan of assembling 20 to 30 tons' trucks in Magway Industrial Zone in Magway, central part of Myanmar.

Ta Ta company, which is India's largest truck and bus manufacturer, has become the first Indian automotive firm to operate in Myanmar.

Observers here said Than Shwe's India visit will bring about closer bilateral cooperation, especially economic cooperation.



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