NAY PYI TAW: India and Myanmar on Monday inked a crucial MoU for the appointment of a private operator of the Sittwe Port that will boost connectivity and help in creating local job opportunities as the two sides discussed bilateral issues as well as topics of common interest, including developments in the strife-torn Rakhine state.
The MoU was signed by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale after his meetings with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Union Minister of Transport and Communications U Thant Sin Maung here.
Gokhale called on Suu Kyi and discussed issues related to bilateral cooperation as well as topics of common interest, including developments in the strife-torn Rakhine state.
"All matters relating to bilateral cooperation as well as matters pertaining to international and regional matters of common interest, including developments in Rakhine state were discussed during this meeting," said a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.
He then met Union Minister of Transport and Communications U Thant Sin Maung and discussed issues related to connectivity and transport infrastructure being developed by India in Myanmar, it said.
After the meeting, Foreign Secretary Gokhale and U Win Khant, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport and Communications, signed the MoU for the appointment of a private Port Operator for the operation and maintenance of Sittwe Port, Paletwa Inland Water Terminal and associated facilities that are part of the Kaladan Multi Model Transit Transport Project.
"This is a significant step in the implementation of India's Act East Policy as its signing will enhance Myanmar's connectivity including with India and add to the development of the whole region, particularly in the Rakhine and Chin States of Myanmar," the statement said.
The Sittwe port in Myanmar will connect India's landlocked north-east region to the Bay of Bengal through Mizoram.
It will also provide an alternate route to Kolkata.
India has an overall commitment of USD 1.75 billion for developmental programmes in Myanmar.
Gokhale also called on Commander in Chief of the Myanmar Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and discussed issued related to border security, bilateral cooperation, Myanmar's peace process as well as the situation in Rakhine state.
Over 720,000 of Myanmar's stateless Muslim minority have fled villages in Rakhine state following a military crackdown in August last year, taking shelter in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
During his meetings, Gokhale conveyed the message that India valued its relationship with a close neighbour like Myanmar and would continue to deepen its cooperation with it in the areas of connectivity, security, people to people relation and economic and commercial cooperation, the statement said.
Myanmar is one of India's strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Myanmar in 2014 to attend the ASEAN- India Summit and then again travelled to the country in 2017 on a bilateral visit.