Rohingya issue to figure in talks as Indian foreign secretary, army chief set to visit Myanmar

Repatriation of Rohingya refugees and the threat posed by Pakistan-based terror groups that are allegedly trying to infiltrate Rohingya in camps in Bangladesh are likely to be among the issues Indian Army Chief Gen MM Naravane and the country’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla will discuss during their one-day visit to Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital, on Monday.

Naravane and Shringla are expected to discuss the issue of repatriation and rehabilitation of Rohingyas as India is already in discussion to facilitate the return of the refugees back to Myanmar, diplomatic sources said in New Delhi.

There are security concerns in Dhaka and New Delhi over Pakistan-based outfits reportedly trying to radicalise Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh amidst reports that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Bangladesh-based Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) have sent their cadres to the Rohingya camps.

During the one-day visit, Gen Naravane and Shringla will undertake a comprehensive review of bilateral ties with the Myanmar authorities.

A coastal shipping agreement that will allow Indian ships to reach north-eastern Indian state of Mizoram via Sittwe port in Myanmar and through the Kaladan river multi-modal link is likely to figure in the talks between the two Indian officials and Myanmar officials.

The two sides will also discuss strengthening of security ties, particularly guarding India-Myanmar border against anti-India insurgents and drug smugglers dealing with yaba and heroin.

Energy sector cooperation is also likely to figure in talks Shringla will have in Myanmar.

The visit to Myanmar by Naravane and Shringla in the midst of coronavirus comes at a time when China has been trying to expand its presence in India’s immediate neighbourhood.

This is the first visit of an Indian Army Chief outside the country amid the pandemic and the India-China faceoff at the Line of Actual Control.

Gen Naravane and Shringla will meet senior Myanmar General Min Aung Hlaing and State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of November 8 elections in that country.

Naravane and Shringla’s visit to Myanmar comes three days after the 19th round of Foreign Office Consultations between the two countries through virtual mode on October 1 when they reviewed the entire gamut of relations, including border cooperation and upgradation of border infrastructure, status of India’s ongoing development projects in Myanmar, trade and investment ties, power and energy cooperation.

Both sides also held extensive discussions on the challenges posed by Covid-19 and ways to mitigate its impact, including through vaccine development, supply of medicines, equipment and technology and capacity building.

At the meeting on October 1, Shringla reiterated the priority India attaches to its partnership with Myanmar in accordance with India’s “Neighborhood First” and “Act East” policies.

He stated that India remained committed to enhancing its multifaceted cooperation with Myanmar and also to explore new avenues of cooperation between the two countries.

Myanmar’s Permanent Secretary U Soe Han reaffirmed Myanmar’s commitment to further strengthen its partnership with India and expressed appreciation for the pandemic-related and development assistance extended by India to his country.

He also thanked India for providing debt service relief under the G-20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the period May 1 to December 31 this year.

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SC : The Daily Star