“The diplomatic relationship between Myanmar and India is intertwined with shared historical, ethnic, cultural, and religious ties.”
India and Myanmar have a long history of strong bilateral relationship stretching back to pre-modern age. Can you comment on the diplomatic relationship between the two countries since 1948?
Myanmar and India are neighbouring countries and share a long land border of approximately 1600 km and a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal. The geographical proximity has helped develop cordial relations between the two countries and facilitated people-to-people contact. The diplomatic relationship between Myanmar and India is intertwined with shared historical, ethnic, cultural, and religious ties. The year 2023 has been a remarkable year with all the celebration of the 75th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee of Myanmar-India Diplomatic Relations. Throughout the diplomatic journey, several agreements enhancing bilateral cooperation have been signed between the two countries. The two countries have cooperated in various areas such as trade, development, culture, education, and infrastructure. India has supported Myanmar in its development efforts, and both nations have collaborated within regional and international forums. As Myanmar and India are deeply rooted in shared cultural and religious ties, Myanmar and India have shared an interest in maintaining the existing sustained diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
India’s willingness and capacity to invest in infrastructure projects in the neighbourhood, especially in Myanmar has been the cornerstone of bilateral partnerships. What are the some of the key infrastructures being undertaken by India in Myanmar?
As Myanmar is of geo-strategic importance to India, India has been involved in several infrastructure projects in Myanmar as part of its bilateral partnerships. Myanmar and India signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the Appointment of a Private Operator for Operation and Maintenance of Sittwe Port, Paletwa Inland Water Terminal and Associated Facilities for Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project on 22 October 2018. In mentioning some of the key infrastructures, the first prominent infrastructure is Sittwe Port which was inaugurated on 10 May 2023. The Sittwe port, built with Indian assistance, will play a key role in connectivity and would lead to a 50 percent reduction in the cost and time of transportation of goods between Kolkata, Agartala and Aizwal. This port is vital for boosting maritime trade between the two countries. Additionally, there is a significant ongoing project of Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport. This project aimed to connect the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe seaport in Myanmar, through riverine and overland transport. It intended to facilitate cargo shipment from the eastern ports of India to Mizoram in India via Myanmar. Since Sittwe port which is a crucial part of the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project has been operating, it is expected to speed up for the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project. Finally, it is worth mentioning that Myanmar, India, and Thailand have been working on the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, which aims to connect Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar. This highway would enhance connectivity and trade between these three countries.
Agriculture and fisheries continue to dominate the economic side of Myanmar. How does the current government intend to bolster these sectors further?
Agriculture is a fundamental part of the economy of Myanmar. Myanmar has a diverse agricultural sector, with crops such as rice, pulses, beans, oilseeds, fruits, and vegetables being cultivated across the country. Particularly, Rice is a staple food and a major agricultural product. To overcome the challenges encountered in the agricultural sector of Myanmar such as land reform issues, outdated infrastructure, and natural disasters, Myanmar is currently endeavouring the good farming practices vary from traditional methods to more modern approaches. In this case, the role of India and the people of India is crucial as Agriculture is another sector where India can substantially augment its cooperation with Myanmar in rice research activities, post-harvest technology, agriculture financing and articulating policies. In terms of Fisheries, Myanmar is rich in aquatic resources due to its long coastline and numerous rivers and lakes. Fishery products are not only important for domestic consumption but also for export. The fisheries sector provides employment to a significant portion of the population, especially in coastal areas. The government of Myanmar is focusing not only on the development of the marine cage culture, and marine pollution technologies including micro plastic concentration, but also on the collaboration with other countries on training in the freshwater sector to reduce the impact of climate change.
India and Myanmar have sought both bilateral and multilateral platform for defence cooperation. What have been the recent developments in the same?
India and Myanmar have indeed expressed interest in enhancing both bilateral and multilateral defense cooperation in recent years. Both countries share a long-standing history of military collaboration, which includes training programs, joint exercises, maritime security, counterterrorism efforts, and mutual strategic interests in the region. India and Myanmar have also engaged in discussions within the framework of regional organizations such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus. These platforms provide opportunities for member countries to collaborate on defense and security issues, fostering multilateral cooperation between India and Myanmar alongside other countries in the region. Moreover, Myanmar has been a key partner in fighting against the insurgent groups in India’s Northeast region. Thus, both governments continue to maintain close cooperation in the defense sector not only to fight against insurgent groups but also to combat the smuggling and trafficking of humans, drugs, arms, and illegal migration throughout the Myanmar-India border.
In order to enable Indian investors to optimize the potential for growth of commerce between two nations the Government of Myanmar has been actively undertaking steps to promote trade opportunities. Could you throw some light on of the ongoing initiatives for the same?
When it comes to Investment Promotion, Myanmar has taken steps to attract foreign investment, including from India. I am certain that, with all the Investment promotion policies, tax incentives, and ease of doing business, Myanmar has become one of the favourable countries for Indian investors. As efforts of the Government of Myanmar to promote the investment sector, the Government has now set the Investment Facilitation Measures to become a more sustainable, transparent, and resilient investment regime using the SMART Programme. Here, I would like to highlight two Investment Facilitation Measures undertaken by the Myanmar Government with the purpose of creating a favourable environment for foreign investors. The first one is the DICA Online Solution (DOSo) and the second one, which is still in progress, is Myanmar Investment Online (MIO). For businesspersons, investors and entrepreneurs who are willing to invest in Myanmar and to discuss matters related to their business by meeting responsible officers virtually via Zoom Application, the DICA launched an online appointment system, namely “DICA Online Solution (DOSo)”, on 1st April 2022. Since DOSo can provide 24/7 online appointments and inquiries of any investment matters, it can enhance connectivity, provide opportunities, and facilitate difficulties for investors. Furthermore, the Myanmar Investment Online (MIO) System aims to apply for permits or endorsements online while reducing the regulatory burden, building a green and paperless environment, and reducing application costs. After launching the system, investors can make online applications for permits & endorsements to either the Myanmar Investment Commission or the Regional/State Investment Committee and e-permits or e-endorsements will be issued via the system.
Myanmar has a strong presence of India diaspora within its society. How do you look at the Indian diaspora to strengthen Indo-Myanmar Relations?
The Indian diaspora in Myanmar plays a significant role in strengthening Indo-Myanmar relations in several ways. Indian diaspora can help foster cultural understanding between the two nations and increase social integration by engaging with local communities. In addition, a strong presence of the Indian diaspora in Myanmar contributes to the sustainable economic development of both countries as Indian diaspora members who are familiar with both countries’ systems can encourage investments and trade between India and Myanmar which leads to the establishment of businesses that create job opportunities in both countries. Furthermore, the Indian diaspora can also act as a diplomatic bridge by
bridging gaps in understanding at the diplomatic level. Most importantly, the Indian diaspora can contribute to humanitarian efforts during crises, fostering goodwill and strengthening ties during challenging times. Overall, the Indian diaspora can serve as a bridge, fostering stronger ties between India and Myanmar through cultural, economic, educational, and social collaborations.
India and Myanmar have undertaken a host of projects to provide for better connectivity to facilitate movement of goods and people. Can you enlist the outcomes of such efforts?
Myanmar and India have been working on various projects to enhance connectivity between the two countries. All those projects aimed to improve not only road and rail connectivity but also maritime connectivity to promote trade, and to enhance people-to-people contacts. In fact, both countries have been enjoying the positive outcomes and long-term benefits from better connectivity between the two countries by facilitating smoother trade between the two countries as it allows for easier movement of goods across borders, reducing transit times and costs, and promoting bilateral trade and economic cooperation. Regarding the positive outcomes, enhanced connectivity can bring many benefits such as trade promotion, economic development, increased tourism sector, increased cultural and educational exchanges, infrastructural development, skills development, and increased people-to-people contacts. On top of that, better connectivity can contribute to regional stability as strong economic ties and increased people-to-people contacts often lead to collaborative efforts on various regional and international issues.
Myanmar has an emerging and thriving tourism sector. What is your outlook for it in the near future?
Myanmar is indeed an emerging tourist destination with a rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and historic sites such as Bagan and Inle Lake. The country has been experiencing a gradual increase in tourism before the COVID-19 era. The Government of Myanmar is currently endeavouring to the rebirth of sustainable post-pandemic tourism with all the efforts to promote the tourism industry including visa regulations, public safety, healthcare infrastructure, tourism promotion initiatives, political and social stability, infrastructure development, preservation of cultural sites, and improvement in the service sector. All those factors can provide insights into the prospects of tourism. Through sustainable or responsible tourism in Myanmar, the country’s tourism sector continues to grow with all the efforts undertaken by Myanmar’s Government. Nevertheless, the most important controlling factor which can have a negative impact on the tourism industry, in general, is the Global Economy. It means that the economic situation in major tourist-generating countries has a negative impact on the growth of tourism industry of the tourist-destination countries.
Myanmar has held close-cultural ties with India along with centuries of shared history. Where do you place the importance of culture in our bilateral relationship?
Culture plays a significant role in shaping bilateral relationships between Myanmar and India. The close cultural ties and the centuries of shared history between Myanmar and India have a profound impact on the bilateral relationship. Cultural exchanges between two countries enhance mutual understanding, foster people-to-people connections, and promote tolerance and respect for each other’s traditions and values. Additionally, collaborations in the fields of art, literature, music, dance, and other forms of cultural expression can create a sense of shared identity and belonging, fostering goodwill and cooperation between Myanmar and India. Furthermore, cultural ties can act as a bridge between governments and citizens; cultural diplomacy initiatives, such as festivals and exhibitions can even contribute to facilitate peace and stability in the region. The importance of culture in the bilateral relationship between Myanmar and India cannot be overstated. It serves as a foundation for mutual respect, deeper understanding, and closer cooperation between the two countries.
Would you like to give any message to our Envoy Excellency readers?
On this occasion of the 75 years of Myanmar-India diplomatic relations, it is my great honour to communicate with readers of this magazine and to express how Myanmar-India bilateral relation is crucial for both countries. Here, I am pleased to extend my sincere gratitude to the government and people of India for the continued dedication to creating a flourishing interconnected community between the two nations. The two government has been experiencing a harmonious relationship with tremendous cultural, traditional, values, and historical ties. Importantly, people-to-people connection between the two nations is stronger than ever. Going beyond this, the two nations value the five principles of peaceful coexistence, leading to mutual respect and increase economic ties including border trade and investments. To move forward, the government of Myanmar continues its best endeavour to promote bilateral relation with India by searching for ways to eliminate barriers and challenges and developing ideas and best practices by exchanging views and close cooperation.
On behalf of the Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in New Delhi, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Envoy Excellency for all the dedication to this momentous occasion of Myanmar-India 75 years of diplomatic relation. Also, I wish to felicitate the publishers and the whole team for putting significant efforts into publishing this remarkable occasion, and I profoundly wish every reader success and prosperity in the future. Most importantly, I would take this golden opportunity to extend my warmest wishes to the friendly and lovely people of India.