India, Myanmar working out solution to boundary issue

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The Sangai Express / Agencies

New Delhi, September 21 2013 : India has close relations with Myanmar on several fronts in-cluding security, energy secu- rity and food security but both sides have "some remaining boundary issues" for which a solution is being worked out, a top official said on Friday.

Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, secretary, economic relations, in the ministry of external affairs, said India's relations with Myanmar is strategic gi-ven their shared land boun- dary in India's northeast and the Bay of Bengal.

While both sides have ink-ed an MoU on border area development, "we do have some remaining boundary issues where there are problems of identifying where construc-tion can be done or cannot be done ...

we are trying to work that out", said Chakravarty at a Roundtable conference here on 'India's Response to Changing Myanmar' .

His comments come in the wake of Myanmarese troops last month attempting to raise a defence post and fencing close to the undemarcated boundary along Manipur.

India had taken up the issue with Myanmar and pushed for a joint working group.

Chakravarty said the 1,400 km Trilateral Highway, linking India, Myanmar and Thai- land is "still a work in pro-gress" .

Some portions of the highway, which is a major con- nectivity project of India and the ASEAN, are still to be completed in Thailand and Myanmar.

The highway � from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar � is slated to become a reality by 2016 .

He said the Kaladan multi�modal transit transport project would provide northeast India access to Myanmar's Sittwe port.

Addressing the round table, organised by Society for Policy Studies and India International Centre, Chakravar- ty said that with India being a major importer of fossil fuels for its energy security needs Indian companies, including ONGC Videsh and GAIL, were working in some blocks in hydrocarbon�rich Myanmar.

He said Essar and Jubilant were also among Indian companies working in Myanmar's oil and gas sector.

Myanmar had shortlisted several other Indian companies that had applied for scouting for hydrocarbons, he added.

India is also a major importer of pulses, including moong dal, from Myanmar, he said adding that both sides have potential for cooperation in palm oil and timber plantation in Myanmar.

India�Myanmar trade has grown appreciably, standing at $1.95 billion, with India's exports at only $550 million.

"The balance of trade is in Myanmar's favour," he said, adding that timber dominates Myanmar's exports to India.

Both sides have two border trading points � Moreh�Tamu and Zowkhatar�Rhi � and another is to be opened at AvakhungPansat/Somrai, he said.

Myanmar Member of Parliament, Pu Zo Zam voiced concern over large scale poppy cultivation by Manipuri people in Myanmar and also hoped that Indian projects in Myanmar would address the concerns of the local people and not be like China, overlooking environmental concerns.

Pu Zo Zam, chairperson, Chin National Party and member of Chin state parliament, said his people "suffer" due to the poppy cultivation.

"We don't want opium to flood our country," he said.

Tint Swe, former MP of the National League for Democracy, too, voiced concern at the poppy cultivation, about which, he alleged, the government was doing nothing.

Preet Malik, former Indian envoy to Myanmar, said India should also try to involve the private sector in Myanmar's infrastructure projects.

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