NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj signed seven agreements during her two-day trip to Myanmar on May 10 and 11, including a land border agreement which will enable people from both countries to cross the land border with passport and visa for accessing health and education services, pilgrimage and tourism.
During her visit, Swaraj called on Myanmar’s President U Win Myint, and met State Counsellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Commander in Chief of the Myanmar Defence Services, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Stressing the need for safe, speedy and sustainable return of displaced persons to Rakhine state, from where thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh after violence last year, Swaraj welcomed Myanmar’s decision to implement the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations, and offered India’s support and assistance wherever required.
India shares a 1,643-km border with Myanmar along the four northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.
The two nations had a unique visa-free movement regime for people living within 16 km of the border on either side, meant to safeguard the traditional rights of the largely tribal local communities which are accustomed to free movement across the border. However, many insurgent and militant outfits were exploiting this facility.
The new agreement is expected to provide connectivity and enhance interaction between people from the north-eastern states of India and those in Myanmar.
Apart from the land border crossing agreement, which was cleared by India’s parliament in January, the other six agreements/MoUs are for restoration and preservation of earthquake-damaged pagodas in Bagan, assistance to the joint ceasefire monitoring committee, training of Myanmar foreign service officers, setting up industrial training centres at Monywa and Thaton, and an agreement to extend the maintenance contract for the industrial training centre in Myingyan.