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May 25, 2020

India is happy to see Myanmar opening up to the world and the world opening up to Myanmar: Indian Ambassador to Myanmar

Mr. Gautam Mukhopadhaya, Indian Ambassador to Myanmar, gave an interview on what India’s contribution to Myanmar development to The Global New Light of Myanmar on Thursday. The Indian Ambassador elaborated on development projects including Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project being implemented by the two countries, benefits that will accrue not only to Myanmar but also to the region through the new Indian Prime Minister’s ‘Make In India’ initiative, and future bilateral relations between Myanmar and India that are likely to be strengthened by development projects and trade and investment between the two countries.
The GNLM: My first question is about India’s development projects in Myanmar. Let me know what the Indian government is doing in Myanmar and what kind of development projects are taking place here.
Indian Ambassador to Myanmar: First of all, I would like to extend my greetings to the readers of the Global New Light of Myanmar daily. Our financial commitment to Myanmar that is expected to reach between US$1.5 billion to 2 billion in the future cover a number of capacity-building and
connectivity projects. They include the construction of Kalay-Kalewa-Yargyi road segment which is the part of India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and Kaladan Muti-modal Transit Transport Project for better connectivity with Myanmar and beyond. We are also upgrading 71 bridges on Tamu-Kalay-Kalewa road and plan to upgrade the Rhi-Tiddim road as part of our connectivity projects. Work on these projects are advanced, or begun. Capacity-building projects are also progressing in the areas of IT, entrepreneurship, language training and proficiency, industrial training and agricultural research. Implementation of more capacity-building projects in Myanmar is under discussion.
The GNLM: Is India’s development assistance different from others?
Indian Ambassador to Myanmar: I do not know about that but we do not see our development cooperation as a donor relationship but, as neighbors and developing countries, as a partnership for mutual benefit, not one way, but two way.
The GNLM: What is the composition of this ‘partnership’? In what areas are they?
Indian Ambassador to Myanmar: They are firstly in connectivity projects. Secondly, in capacity-building in Myanmar and India. Third, in Border Area Development projects in Chin state and Naga Self-Administered Zone of Sagaing Region for schools, primary health centers, and bridges. In addition to about US$ 750 million for connectivity, capacity-building and border area development projects funded directly, India has loaned about US$ 750 million to Myanmar as a soft, low interest, long-term loan that the Government of Myanmar can use according to its development priorities. Under our ITEC (Technical and Economic) program, over 500 Myanmar, mostly government servants, are being sent to India each year for short-term training programs besides a handful of students for regular education degrees. These could increase with the proposed reforms in the Myanmar education system.
The GNLM: How much benefit can Myanmar and India get from Kaladan Muti-modal Transit Transport Project which is projected to benefit not only Myanmar and India but also ASEAN?
Indian Ambassador to Myanmar: I am not sure about ASEAN. The project is basically meant to help to develop the least developed parts of India and Myanmar – the northeast of India and Chin and Rakhine States of Myanmar. On completion of Sittwe Port hopefully by the end of this year, an inland water terminal at Paletwa by the middle of next year, and the road from Paletwa to Indian border which will start next year, in 2-3 years time, there should be greater trade between the eastern seaports for India, particularly in the Bay of Bengal, increased coastal shipping, and greater opportunities for beans and pulses growers and traders in central Myanmar to export to India. We may expect to see greater trade with and investment in Rakhine state, and Chin State will get the benefit of access to sea thanks to the development of Sittwe port and the Kaladan river. Myanmar’s port and trade capacities will grow. The whole area will also benefit from transit trade and access to markets. This is what I mean by a ‘development partnership’ for mutual benefit.
The GNLM: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launched the ‘Make in India’ initiative. How can it benefit the region?
Indian Ambassador to Myanmar: Prime Minister Modi’s vision is to transform India into a global manufacturing and industrial hub. The core of this vision is to improve ease of business, facilitate and scale up investment in industry and capacity-building, and connect India with its friendly neighbors through trade and investment in a number of industrial corridors. One such corridor, a new one and very much part of his ‘Make in India’ initiative, is the ‘Northeast India-Myanmar industrial corridor. The idea behind this is not only to improve connectivity and increase investment in the north-east of India to realize its potential, but also promote trade and investment with Myanmar through our ongoing connectivity projects. The overall idea is to attract domestic and foreign investment in the manufacturing sector in India and promote trade and outward investment starting with our immediate neighbors amongst which Myanmar is specifically mentioned.
The GNLM: Do you think both countries could translate their impressive projected growth rates into promotion of bilateral relations in terms of trade and investment as the IMF said Myanmar is expected to pick up the growth rate of 8.5 percent this year and next while India’s growth forecast is to be 5.6 percent in 2014 and 6.4 percent in 2015?
Indian Ambassador to Myanmar: Yes. This is a good convergence and message. India is a 1.8 trillion economy and a 1.2 billion market with a high growth and level of science, technology and industry as a developing country. Today, India is capable of delivering good quality and high technology, at a low cost as exemplified by the ‘Nano’ car and the Indian Mars Mission, and is poised to scale this up dramatically under the Prime Minister’s new initiatives. Its economic reform under conditions similar to Myanmar’s started a generation back, and is entering a new phase. Myanmar is a basically agricultural economy with a low level of industrial development but high social capital and a relatively unspoiled environment. It has opened up under the current government. Its needs at this point of time are capital, technology and capacity development, especially education, training and skills that are required for a modern economy.
Myanmar can benefit from the size and level of development of the Indian economy, its market, its broad-based experience in agriculture through the green revolution and cooperative movement, its industrial development through small and medium industries, its high technology industries, its education, health and IT amongst many other areas, and even from its mistakes. Myanmar is rich in natural resources and has a large agricultural base and a culturally disciplined society with a young and trainable population. From a low base it can become one of the fastest growing economies in the ASEAN. There are issues to be resolved regarding land, power, environment, rules and procedures, etc. but we see the government, civil society and international community highly engaged in these issues, and in spite of them, are encouraging our investors to explore business in Myanmar. Going by the Indian delegations visiting Myanmar these days, they are ready. Now is the time for Myanmar and India to rediscover economic potential and partnership. I expect we will reach these growth rates.
The GNLM: This is final question. Not a question, it is to know your message to Myanmar people.
Indian Ambassador to Myanmar: We appreciate the great opportunities opened up by the transition, growth, development and achievements of Myanmar over last three years and its promise for the future. India is a good neighbor for Myanmar. We have no real problems. We respect Myanmar’s choices and sovereignty and the voices of the people. We are very happy to see Myanmar opens up to the world and the world has opened up to Myanmar. As a historical and geographical neighbor with very similar conditions and inherited problems at the time of independence from colonial rule, Myanmar can benefit a lot from India’s experience of building a nation out of its human diversity, its democracy, its unity and degree of federalism, its genuinely national army, its broad based and comprehensive economic growth, its human resources and its national experience over the last 6-7 decades. Myanmar can draw from this experience and relationship for its own strength and better balance in its overall relations in Asia and the world. Perhaps, over the isolation, self-imposed and imposed, over the last many decades, and the variety of choices opened up by Myanmar’s reforms and the interest it has evoked, this has not happened to the degree possible. My main message to the Myanmar people, especially the business, investment and decision-making communities is to look much more at India for economic ties and nation-building.


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