Describing her four-day Myanmar visit as “very successful”, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said she forcefully articulated India’s position in meetings of ASEAN, ARF and East Asia Summit besides having bilateral engagements with her counterparts from 11 countries.
Wrapping up her visit, Ms. Swaraj said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision has significantly increased India’s stature among foreign governments in the last two-and-half months as they felt the new government can deliver on its promises and boost trade and investment.
Ms. Swaraj, who attended the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, ASEAN Regional Forum Meeting and East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting – her first multilateral engagement as External Affairs Minister – said the leaders she met were quite excited about the new government in India and some of them were of the view that it will function without any “pressure or blackmail” as it came with a clear majority.
“Everybody was impressed by Modiji’s vision. They feel that investment opportunities have increased in India as the government has an ambitious agenda and they wanted to be part of it,” she told reporters before leaving for New Delhi.
The ASEAN, ARF and EAS meetings were dominated by a fresh standoff in the South China Sea where India strongly favoured freedom of navigation and access to resources in the resource-rich area and said the dispute must be resolved as per international law.
Addressing the issue of China’s increasing presence in Myanmar, Swaraj said, “We have very good relations with Myanmar. I have discussed matters relating to PIOs here as well as visas issued between the two countries. We don’t need to compare ourselves with China.” Implying that India’s position on the South China Sea has been firm, she said that “no such issue should be resolved through conflict and war” but through peaceful dialogue. “This is my first such event and I have placed India’s stand firmly before the various forums,” she said. Ms. Swaraj also had bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of 11 countries including Japan, Australia, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.
In her meetings with President of Myanmar U Thein Sein and Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung, Swaraj raised India’s serious concern over certain militant outfits of north eastern region having bases inside its territory and asked the country to take action against them. “Though political leadership of Myanmar has been maintaining that Myanmar does not and will never allow groups whose interests pose a threat to India to operate, the ground reality is very different. I have told the foreign minister that these groups pose a threat not only to India but to Myanmar as well and that they need to be handled sternly”.
Both foreign ministers discussed connectivity projects, including land, maritime and air connectivity and the much awaited trilateral highway which will connect India-Myanmar- Thailand to facilitate people-to-people contact and trade. “I have suggested that a direct flight be started from Delhi-Bodhgaya-Yangon. Right now, flights to Myanmar are all through Bangkok. We need to rectify this”, she said.