September 25, 2016

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Myanmar : Performing a delicate balancing act

After a new government led by the National League for Democracy has been in power for several months, Myanmar has brought the ASEAN member countries and its dialogue partners into play. It all began with a state visit to Laos , the Chair of the ASEAN, by the President and the State Counsellor. And on 7 September, 2016 the State Counsellor proceeded to Vientiane, Laos to attend the 29th ASEAN Summit(Retreat) and related Summits with dialogue partners. She got a chance of meeting with dialogue partners, including leaders from world’s leading powers; she even met the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte and the representative from the North Korea, who invited her to visit his Communist-ruled country. World’s leading countries such as China, India and the US also invited her to pay an official visit to their countries at an appropriate time.
As a result, the State Counsellor paid a state visit to China in August, 2016 and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China. The State Counsellor pledged that Myanmar values pauk-phaw friendship and will work with China for peace and stability along the common border based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. President Xi  touched on Myanmar’ infrastructure development by offering one billion yuan  in loans. President U Htin Kyaw’s visit to India was the first top-level engagement between India and Myanmar since the new government took office in the Southeast Asian country. Myanmar sought India’s assistance in several sectors ranging from infrastructure and education to healthcare and energy.
Across upper Myanmar at the foothills of the eastern Himalayas,  where the world’s biggest democracy meets its biggest communist state. Myanmar borders to the east with China and India to the west. Myanmar holds a unique position in India’s neighbourhoods and long-standing cultural and historical linkages form a solid foundation of the bilateral relations. This is the reason why the costs of a Chinese-dominated are deemed unacceptable for India. World’s second-biggest economy China has entered Myanmar with much- needed money and skills to benefit from closer contacts with its fast-developing neighbour. Proximity to the biggest growth engine in the world could be an enormous boon to Myanmar.
Japan plans to provide 100 billion yen in loans to Myanmar for infrastructure development. Japan is eager to give assistance to Myanmar as a way to counter China’s influence in the fast-growing and resource-rich country. Other countries are also vying to strengthen ties with the first democratically elected government in Myanmar. Going to the West State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi left Yangon on 10 September and stopped over in London for three days en route for the United States to attend the 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York. During the meeting in London with Myanmar Ambassadors from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the State Counsellor  briefed them about priorities in Myanmar as well as the country’ foreign policy, saying that Myanmar has friendly relations with all countries in the world, practicing the non-aligned foreign policy. She held talks with Britain’ top leaders, including the House of Commons Speaker, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Theresa May and requested British government to help Myanmar’s agriculture, forestry, education, health and human resource development sectors.
In the United States , the State Counsellor was welcomed with open arms by the US President Barack  Obama at the Oval Office of the White House. At the meeting she told the President it was time for all sanctions that hurt her country economically to be lifted. President Obama said  democratic progress in Myanmar was incomplete but on the right track. She also met with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry. She also held separate talks with US Congressional  Leaders in the US Capital about Myanmar’s democratic transition.
Much more financial and technical assistance from the UK and the US could be expected in the future. Under these creations and challenges, what should Myanmar do? Myanmar must be firmly prepared to face all the consequences and challenges ahead: leaders create opportunities and the people should grasp them for the development of the country.
United , we will succeed; divided, we will surely fail. It is hoped that the new government under wise and far-sighted leadership of State Counsellor
will handle all issues by performing a great balancing act of diplomacy.


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