India’s FM Heads to Burma, Elevating Diplomatic Ties

Posted June 20th, 2011 at 5:15 am (UTC-5)
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India's foreign minister flew Monday to Burma for a visit that is expected to boost warming ties between the Asian neighbors.

Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said before leaving New Delhi that the talks would focus on security cooperation as well as energy, infrastructure and other matters. He is the highest ranking Indian government official to visit Burma since a new government took office at the end of March.

Burma is also hosting a delegation from the European Union, which says it wants to see whether the new leadership is serious about democratic reform. The EU in April extended its economic sanctions on Burma and most of its leaders, but lifted travel restrictions on a few civilian members of the new government.

The Europeans also expect to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, but Krishna said he did not know whether he would have an opportunity to see the pro-democracy activist.

India has been gradually engaging with the Burmese government over the past decade after years of firm support for Aung San Suu Kyi.

New Delhi would like help from Burma in dealing with separatist rebels based along their common border. It is also interested in gaining access to Burmese natural gas and in countering China's growing influence in the country.

Several governments have been assessing how to work with the new Burmese government since elections in November, which ended decades of open military rule. However, retired and active-duty officers hold most key positions in the new government, and critics say nothing has really changed.