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General Than Shwe arrives in India on goodwill mission
Patna/ Yangon, Jul 25 (IANS/DPA):
Published on 25 Jul. 2010 11:03 PM IST
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Myanmar’s military ruler General Than Shwe Sunday began a five-day India visit with plans to pray at the Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya in Bihar.
Myanmar’s junta chief Senior General Than Shwe is on a goodwill visit to India at the invitation of the Indian president, officials confirmed.
Than Shwe departed Naypyitaw International Airport for a five-day official visit as guest of President Pratibha Patil, government officials in the military’s capital said.
The general landed at the Gaya aiport around 10.30 a.m., a police officer told IANS.
Than Shwe, 77, will pray in the evening and then visit the Bodi tree under which Lord Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. He will reach New Delhi to meet the Indian leadership, including President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
India has cultivated close diplomatic ties with military-run Myanmar over the past decade to pursue economic and security interests and counterbalance China’s growing clout in the country, which sits between the two Asian giants.
Myanmar government sources said Than Shwe’s visit was “religious in nature”, although it would include discussions on border security and economic cooperation.
Myanmar, a former British colony with close economic ties to India prior to independence in 1948, has been under military rule since 1962.
The current regime is deemed a pariah by Western democracies for its refusal to free opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest, and reluctance to introduce democratic reforms.
India, by contrast, is deemed Asia’s most dynamic democracy.
Myanmar’s junta is expected to soon announce a date for a general election this year.
The anticipated polls have already been condemned by Western democracies for excluding Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy.
Protest over visits
Indian Parliamentarians’ Forum for Democracy in Burma (IPFDB) expresses their protest on the government’s decision to welcome the state visit of the Senior General Than Shwe of Burma at this point of time in India. In an email press release said the IPFDB wrote a letter to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and expressed their concerns of the view that Indian government should not lend legitimacy for the military rule and its abusive human rights violations in Burma by focusing primarily on military and economic corporation with the military dictatorship in Burma.
The parliamentarians urge the Prime Minister to take this visit as an opportunity to convey the clear message that India is in favor of free, fair and inclusive political processes in the neighboring country.
The IPFDB also urged Dr. Singh to strongly reiterate the repeated calls for the unconditional release of all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi and the holding of genuine and inclusive dialogue process in Burma much before the election is held.

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