Twitpic courtesy: @PMOIndia
Nay Pyi Taw:
In what is billed as one of the high-points of his landmark visit to Myanmar, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi today.
The Prime Minister, during the 45-minute-long meeting at Hotel Sedona in Yangon, said that Ms Suu Kyi was an inspiration for the entire South East Asian region. He also handed over a letter from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi inviting Ms Suu Kyi to visit India and deliver the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial lecture. The Myanmarese opposition leader said she was willing to take up the invitation.
Ahead of the meeting in Yangon, which saw the pro-democracy icon sticking to protocol and calling on the Indian premier, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said, "Ms Suu Kyi is one of the important leaders of Myanmar and it's natural for the Prime Minister to receive her with due courtesy and convey our best wishes for a national reconciliation for a democratic process to blossom in this country".
Asked what commitments India can make in helping democracy flourish in Myanmar, Krishna said, "Who are we to make more commitments to the democratic process here. This is a free, sovereign country with which we have diplomatic and other relationships".
The meeting with the India-educated, 66-year-old Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi is taking place a day after Singh's talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein who is credited with initiating a series of political reforms in the last one year.
It speaks volumes of the changed environment in Myanmar that Singh is meeting leaders at opposite ends of the political spectrum, in a break from the past few years when Indian leaders, including former President A P J Abdul Kalam and Vice President Hamid Ansari, visited this country but could not meet Suu Kyi who had been under house arrest.
Singh's meeting with Suu Kyi is seen as a clear sign that New Delhi wants a reaffirmation of ties with the democracy activist after facing international criticism in the past for its engagement with Myanmar's former military junta.
On Monday, India announced that it would provide a $500 million line of credit to Myanmar as the two countries signed 12 agreements on a range of sectors, including air services, marking the beginning of a "new journey" of bilateral cooperation. (Read)
It is the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Myanmar in the quarter of a century.