Sunday 23 October 2016

'Myanmar is Ready to Bust NE Militant Groups If Provided Inputs'

Manash Pratim Bhuyan/Nay Pyi Taw

Promising all possible support to India's fight against terrorism, Myanmar has said it will bust training camps of North East militant groups on its soil if India provides specific inputs about their existence.

Asserting that his country will never allow any terror outfit to use its soil against India, Myanmar's Information Minister U Ye Htut said his government will cooperate "fully" with the new Indian government in cracking down on militant bases, if there was any.

"If India gives exact information about the location and other information (about the militant training camps), then Myanmar is ready to take action against them," Htut told PTI in an interview.

Myanmar, considered one of India's strategic neighbours, shares a 1,640 km long border with a number of North Eastern states including militancy-infested Nagaland and Manipur.

India has been raising with Myanmar the issue of several North East Militant outfits having training camps in that country and it was taken up again by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during her visit here recently.

As per Indian security agencies, militant outfits like United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) have bases in Myanmar.

"That area is mountaneous. Our policy is not to allow any outfit to use Myanmar territory to attack any neighbouring country. Now we are trying our best and in recent months we captured lot of illegal arms along the Indian border," Htut said.

Acknowledging India's concern on the issue, he said the Myanmar government was keen to have better cooperation between militaries of the two countries to address the "problem".

"We will work more closely military-to-military to solve the problem. We will welcome if India shares information on movement of terrorists," he said.

Asked whether Myanmar will allow Indian security forces to carry out operation inside its territory to bust the militant camps, he said his country's foreign policy does not allow such action.

Seeking improvement in ties with India, Htut said Myanmar welcomed initiative by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to enhance relationship with the neighbouring countries.

Emphasising on the need to have connectivity, he said Myanmar specifically favours road link from India to Thailand and India to China's Yunnan province through Myanmar.

China has also been favouring opening road link to connect Yunnan province through Myanmar to Kolkata as a economic corridor.

Myanmar, India and Thailand have already been working on the trilateral highway.

The highway - from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand, via Myanmar - was conceived at the trilateral ministerial meeting on transport linkages in Yangon in April 2002.

Htut said there was huge scope for expansion of cooperation between India and Myanmar in sectors like trade, tourism, infrastructure and Information Technology.

He said India's manufacturing sector can exploit the potential in Myanmar and his government will ensure a level playing field for Indian companies.

Asked whether China's influence was growing in Myanmar, the Minister admitted having stronger economic ties with that country but insisted that it did not mean his government was favouring China.

"We have a good relationship with China as well as with India. We have an independent foreign policy. For the economic sector, China has more investment and trade volume then India. But it is not because Myanmar is favouring China," he said.

Htut felt there was need focus on pushing for border trade between the two countries through the North Eastern states.

India and Myanmar signed a border trade agreement in 1994 and have two operational border trade points: Moreh-Tamu and Zowkhatar–Rhi.

There has been steady expansion of bilateral trade from USD 12.4 million in 1980-81 to USD 1.92 million in 2012-13.

India's imports from Myanmar are dominated by agricultural items while India's main exports to Myanmar are primary and semi-finished steel and pharmaceuticals.

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