Continued from 19-3-2017
In response to the changes, world major powers have lifted international sanctions. The United States has stepped up diplomatic relations with the country.
As a result of these transitional reforms, global powers began reestablishing ties with Myanmar. The United States, European Union, Australia, and Japan dropped some economic sanctions, and multinational companies began showing interest in investment in the country.
Every cloud has a silver lining and it means that you should never feel hopeless because difficult times always lead to better days. Difficult times are like dark clouds that pass overhead and block the sun.
In April 2012, UK Prime Minister David Cameron became the first major Western leader to visit Myanmar in twenty years. The World Bank subsequently earmarked $245 million in credit and grant funding for the country, marking the first international lending to the nation in twenty-five years.
Before that in 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar on a goodwill mission. During the visit, she met with the then President U Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. It was agreed to boost humanitarian aid, and announced the United States would no longer block assistance from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
In 2012, Washington announced further steps for cooperation, including the reestablishment of a USAID mission and easing the bans on the export of U.S. financial services and new investment. The administration also named its first ambassador to the country in twenty-two years.
U.S. relations with Myanmar further warmed with landmark visits by both President Obama to Yangon in November 2012 and President U Thein Sein to Washington in May 2013. On his second visit to Myanmar for the 2014 East Asia Summit, Obama reasserted the U.S. commitment to the country’s political transition.
Getting closer ties with Washington has challenged Myanmar long-standing strategic and economic partnership with Beijing. China is the largest investor, and there is growing resistance within Myanmar to Chinese infrastructure investment. However, Myanmar government maintains friendly “Phauk Phaw” relations with China.
As soon as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi became foreign minister, she invited Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. She received Wang Yi in Nay Pyi Taw and it has been reported that the discussion was successful, but did not involve any issue of China’s controversial projects in Myanmar.
Myanmar-Chinese ties remained unchanged, it was learnt.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi undertook her first foreign trip as leader to a major power country by visiting China at the invitation of Chinese Premier Mr. Li Keqiang. At the meeting, their discussions focused on the five principle of peaceful coexistence, enhancement of bilateral relations and closer cooperation in transportation.
In addition to the lifting of US sanctions on Myanmar that came as result of a historic meeting at the White House between President Obama and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, there will be several other initiatives that were agreed upon in Washington, including global health security and improved language instruction.
“The President and the State Counsellor committed to mark this new era in the bilateral relationship by announcing a US-Myanmar Partnership. This Partnership anchored by annual dialogues led by the US Department of State and the Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will allow the two countries to broaden and deepen their cooperation across a range of sectors,” read a statement issued by The White House.
In the light of historic partnership, the US and Myanmar agreed to game-changing initiatives.
The international relations move ahead in full swing, however, Myanmar’s transition to democracy remains weighed down by ethnic problems.
Earlier, in October 2015, the government signed a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with eight armed ethnic groups after more than two years of negotiations. By all means, the peace, stability and prosperity would prevail as the current approach is based on negotiations at the table and all inclusive standpoints.
Currently, Myanmar’s domestic peace building efforts are clearly based on greater transparency and legislation to bring laws and practices in line with international norms.
Moreover, Myanmar’s admittance of international observers — including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon — at the recent Panglong Conference is a welcome development. The approach would boost confidence in the fairness and legitimacy of its proceedings.
Similarly, appointing former UN Secretary General Dr. Kofi Annan to head a commission on Rakhine State may enhance Myanmar credibility in addressing the problem in the area.
At a broader level, the international community stands ready to help Myanmar. The foreign assistance will probably take the form of increased aid, technical advice, training, trade and investment. Thanks to the Myanmar foreign policy shifts.
In addition to profuse ties with the western countries, Myanmar’s foreign policy will remain consistently neutral and nonaligned; although the country will inevitably become increasingly bound to its Southeast Asian neighbors as ASEAN realizes its goal of the ASEAN Economic Community.
Here, the writer as a retired Myanmar Foreign Service officer would like to use the term “Towards the people-centered foreign policy” as all the good diplomats in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been working earnestly and diligently in promoting the national interest of our beloved country.