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Burmese, Thai envoys to visit Northeast
New Delhi, Jun 3 (AGENCIES):
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Published on 3 Jun. 2010 11:17 PM IST
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The Burmese and Thai ambassadors to India met the minister of northeastern regional development in New Delhi recently to discuss trade, tourism and connectivity along the road under the huge Kaladan River transport project, but rights groups say such links are doing very little to help ordinary Burmese.
The envoys decided further talks would be held soon during the envoys’ visits to Northeastern states along Indo-Burmese border, a ministry official said on Monday. The ambassadors from the Asean countries, Krit Kraichitti of Thailand and Kyi Thein of Burma, met BK Handique, the minister of mines and development of the northeastern region (DoNER) on May 26, a government statement said.
“It’s a courtesy visit,” an official from the DoNER told Mizzima. “The Thailand and Burma ambassadors called up BK Handique for a meeting, and … came to the conclusion they would visit the Northeastern Region to explore the possibility of promoting tourism and trade in a two-phase visit.”
“The minister of mines and DoNER would be co-ordinating the two-phased visit, which includes Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura in the first phase and Sikkim, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh on the second,” the ministry official said, referring to six of the country’s northeastern states. The tour date was yet to be set and “will be finalised after consulting the respective ministers. We are hoping it will be in … August and September”, he said.
The Burmese ambassador gave Handique a report on the road linking Zokhta in Mizoram State with Setpytpin in Burma. He said Burma was acting on India’s request that development of the road be expedited, the statement said.
The road is part of the “Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project” financed by India, which aims to boost links between ports on India’s eastern seaboard and Sittwe in Arakan (Rakhine) State, Burma.
From there goods will be shipped along the Kaladan River from its confluence near Sittwe to Paletwa in Chin State and by road to India’s Mizoram State, which will provide an alternate route for transport of goods to India’s landlocked northeast, according to the ministry’s website.
According to the official, measures to promote border trade were also discussed and a recent notice from India’s export-import watchdog, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, expanding permitted commodities for trade along the Indo-Burmese border, was also presented.
A list of 21 commodities had been allowed for trade with Burma but on May 12, the watchdog added 18 categories to the permitted items that included bicycle parts, life-saving drugs, fertilisers, spices, incense sticks, sugar, salt and stainless-steel utensils.
The meeting also aimed to build cultural ties.
However India’s soft diplomacy with Burma keeps one eye firmly fixed on the latter’s natural energy resources. Indian government corporations such as ONGC and gas transporter GAIL (India) have secured stakes in gas-field development and onshore pipeline projects in Burma.

 
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