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Myanmar: Shifting Political Landscape
|by Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle|
Winds of change may be evident in one of the Worlds most isolated regimes, Myanmar nee Burma for many. Tectonic shifts in politics in the country were evident with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi meeting the President Thein Sein a former general for the first time on 19 August. This is seen as a major transformation as Suu Kyi the Nobel laureate has consistently opposed moves for reconciliation whereas the military junta in power till a few months back had kept her incarcerated for long. It is apparent that the both sides have reconciled to work a consensus though it may be too early to predict an overall transformation.
Both sides will:
As a follow up, Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein attended a workshop in Naypyitaw in the Myanmar International Convention Centre. Suu Kyi also held a one-hour meeting with President Thein Sein on 19 August. Suu Kyi’s photos were prominently splashed in Myanmar’s newspapers for the first time. “From my point of view, I think the president wants to achieve real positive change,” Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters later. Thein Sein is seen by many as a softer face of the military and had been the Prime minister during junta rule as well. What is however encouraging is that Suu Kyi is amenable to dialogue with the government which she had resented in the past.
With a new deal signed between Aung Suu Kyi and government providing her greater political freedom there are hopes of a new dawn in Myanmar called in most parts of the West by its old name Burma. Suu Kyi has been the symbol of hope for the politically oppressed not just in Myanmar but across the World. The outreach by the new government in Myanmar is therefore a victory of sorts, even though this may be just the beginning of a new era of negotiations and parleys. Yet there is hope from the hard-line approach adopted by the military junta in the past. There are immense benefits of opening up of Myanmar for its neighbours as India and ASEAN who are keenly following developments there, a bit of push by them will also work wonders. Will these countries seize the opportunities to end Chinese domination of business and other facets in Myanmar remains to be seen?
Naypyidaw is also embarking on an aggressive expansion of its military that includes purchase of fighter jets at one end and beefing up manpower through recruitment. Russia is believed to be close to finalising a deal for sale of 20 advanced MiG 29 fighter jets at more than $US570 million. More significantly Myanmar is reported to have rejected a Chinese offer of J 10 and FC 1 fighter aircraft. Meanwhile work has begun for construction on the Myanmar section of the Sino-Myanmar Pipeline. China and Myanmar signed an agreement to build the 2,806 kilometer Sino-Myanmar cross-border natural gas pipeline in March 2009. The pipeline is expected to supply some 12 billion cubic meters annually from Kyaukphyu to Kunming City in southern China's Yunnan Province with an investment of USD 2.54 billion and is slated for completion by 2013.
Myanmar's Rail Transportation Ministry and China's Railways Engineering Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding in April to jointly develop the China-Myanmar railway. Construction on the 20-billion-dollar rail link between the Myanmar's Chinese border and its western coast could begin as early as December.
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