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NAYPYITAW: Indian Army chief Gen M M Naravane and foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Monday called on Myanmar‘s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and discussed a wide range of “important” bilateral areas, including maintenance of security and stability in the border areas.

They also met Myanmar’s top General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander in Chief of defence services, and discussed issues of bilateral importance.

Gen Naravane and Shringla discussed “important bilateral issues” during their meeting with Suu Kyi, the Indian embassy said.

“The two sides discussed maintenance of security and stability in their border areas and reiterated their mutual commitment not to allow their respective territories to be used for activities inimical to each other,” said a press release issued by the ministry of external affairs.

Myanmar is one of India’s strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including terrorism-hit Nagaland and Manipur.

India has been concerned over some terrorist groups from the North-East region taking shelter in Myanmar. The country has been assuring India that it would not allow any insurgent group to use its territory against India.

In June, 2015 the Indian Army had carried out an operation in areas near the Indo-Myanmar against the NSCN (K) terrorists, days after the ultras had killed 18 Army men in Manipur.

The two countries have significantly ramped up defence and security cooperation in the last few years including in the maritime security sphere.

Shringla said Myanmar’s handing over of 22 Indian insurgents has been deeply appreciated by India and sends a strong message of “deterrence to inimical elements on both sides.”

General Naravane also held talks with Vice Senior General Soe Win, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar Armed Services while Shringla met Soe Han, Permanent Secretary of foreign ministry.

Their visit to Myanmar assumes significance as it comes in the midst of the Indian Army’s bitter border standoff with the Chinese military in eastern Ladakh as well restrictions on foreign visits due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is Gen Naravane’s first visit to any foreign country after he took charge as the Chief of Army Staff on December 31 last year.

During their visit, India announced a grant of $2 million for the construction of the border haat bridge at Byanyu/Sarsichauk in Chin State that will provide increased economic connectivity between Mizoram and Myanmar.

A quota of 1.5 lakh tonnes of Urad (Vigna mungo) for import from Myanmar till March 31, 2021 was also announced.

“The visit provided an opportunity to review the sustained progress in bilateral relations which have been marked in recent years by regular high-level visits and interactions,” the release said.

“Both sides agreed to further strengthen their partnership in connectivity projects, capacity building, power and energy, deepen economic and trade ties, further facilitate people to people and cultural exchanges, and broad-base their defence exchanges across all the three services,” it added.

Myanmar appreciated India’s decision to provide debt service relief under the G-20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative.

Both sides agreed to work towards operationalising the Sittwe Port by the first quarter of next year and that the tendering process for 69 bridges proposed under the ambitious India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway will begin soon.

Sittwe Port is part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project which is being viewed as India’s gateway to Southeast Asia. The port will connect India’s landlocked northeastern region with the Bay of Bengal through Mizoram.

They exchanged views on an early initiation of work on fresh initiatives such as the upgradation of Yamethin Women’s Police Academy, Basic Technical Training School and measures to provide long term sustainability to projects such as the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology.

Both sides noted the considerable progress made under the Rakhine State Development Programme and proposed finalising projects under Phase-III of the Programme, including setting up of a skills training centre. The two sides signed an agreement on the upgrading of agricultural mechanisation.

Shringla conveyed India’s support for ensuring safe, sustainable and speedy return of displaced persons to the Rakhine State.

The two sides discussed plans to install a bust of Lokmanya Tilak in Mandalay to commemorate his 100th death anniversary as it was during his incarceration in Mandalay jail that he wrote Gita Rahasya.

Shringla assured India’s continued support to Myanmar in its democratic transition.

In the last few years, both countries have made commendable strides in bilateral ties and explored new avenues of cooperation including fresh investments in oil and gas and power, infrastructure and pharmaceuticals.

The two sides have been in discussion to establish a High Capacity High Voltage Grid Interconnection between the Indian power grid and the Myanmar grid. “Discussions on the low voltage radial interconnections between North-Eastern states and Myanmar have also progressed. The cooperation in the maritime domain and disaster management has been enhanced,” it said.

It said initiatives like the successful implementation of the Land Border Crossing Agreement and ongoing discussions at the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Motor Vehicles Agreement, have been moving forward.

The Centre of Excellence in Software Development and Training in Myitkyina, was virtually inaugurated.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

India calls for complete ceasing of support to terrorist forces in Middle East

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UNITED NATIONS: India has called on all concerned parties to completely stop supporting terrorist forces, like the ISIS, while urging all stakeholders in the Middle East to work constructively for peace, stability and development.

India underscored that it has invested considerably in the peace and stability of the region by deploying its personnel as part of UN peacekeeping forces, through humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, capacity building, and will continue contributing towards peace-building in the Middle East.

“India calls on concerned parties to completely stop support to terrorist forces, like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and others. India also urges all parties in the region to work constructively and in good faith to promote peace, stability and development for the benefit of all people in the Middle East,” India said in a written statement on Monday on the Security Council’s open debate on ‘The Situation in the Middle East’.

India said the truce between Israel and the Hamas has eased the humanitarian situation in Gaza and expressed hope that the temporary truce is converted into a permanent ceasefire, which can save precious human lives on both sides and create a conducive environment for talks.

“It is an unfortunate reality that the interlinked and mutually reinforcing challenges faced by the people of the Middle East have not yet been resolved. Political instability, long-festering conflicts, sectarian divides, issue of refugees and terrorism continue to plague the region. The COVID-pandemic has only exacerbated the threats posed by these challenges,” India said.

The statement made India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador T S Tirumurti, will go as part of the official record of the Council.

India said it appreciates the agreement between Fatah and Hamas for holding Parliamentary and Presidential elections and also elections for the Palestinian National Council, which will help fulfill the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

India also welcomed the agreements for normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. “India has always supported peace and stability in West Asia, which is our extended neighbourhood,” India said.

Further, India said the commencement of discussions on the disputed border between Israel and Lebanon is a significant development, expressing hope that this will provide an opportunity to resolve the longstanding issue between the two countries.

India highlighted that Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign and independent state are yet to be fulfilled and stressed that New Delhi has been unwavering in its commitment to the Palestinian cause and continues to remain supportive of a peaceful negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue.

“India has supported the two-state solution as a just and acceptable solution to the conflict. Establishment of a Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, within mutually agreed borders should be achieved through negotiations directly by the two parties,” India said adding that any stalemate could strengthen the hands of extremists and shut the door to cooperation thereby jeopardising the security, stability and prosperity of the people on both sides and the region.

Accordingly, India urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations at the earliest and called upon the international community to take concrete steps towards resuming and facilitating these negotiations quickly.

India noted that the decade-long armed conflict in Syria has claimed over 400,000 lives, displaced 6.2 million people internally and compelled another 6.3 million people to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.

“While we are heartened to see return of normalcy to major parts of the country, we are also reminded of the enormous resources that would be required to provide urgent humanitarian aid, rebuild infrastructure, enable return of the refugees and restore a normal and dignified life of all Syrians,” the statement said.

India said in the statement that it is not only contributing to the return of normalcy and rebuilding of Syria, but has also consistently called for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led dialogue, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria.

India voiced concern over the security and humanitarian situation in Yemen and said the recent exchange of prisoners by the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah, who had been detained in connection with the conflict, is a welcome development.

“India hopes that the parties will take more confidence building measures to provide the necessary impetus for the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement,” the statement read.

India also hopes for peace and stability in Iraq with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India noted that in the aftermath of the August blast that brought destruction to vast swathes of Beirut and inflicted heavy loss of lives, India stood in solidarity with Lebanon.

New Delhi sent emergency humanitarian aid of over 58 metric tons to Beirut. “We look forward to the swift formation of a new government that can offer political stability and also tackle the grave socio-economic challenges being faced by the people of Lebanon,” the statement said.

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INDIA

US, India must focus on threat posed by China: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo

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NEW DELHI: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Tuesday stressed on the need for Washington and New Delhi to work together to counter the threat posed by Beijing to “security and freedom”

Pompeo’s comment came during the crucial 2+2 dialogue between India and the US, which saw the signing of a crucial defence agreement between the two countries.

“There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region,” Pompeo said during talks with defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Pompeo was joined by defence secretary Mark Esper.

Esper too focussed on the apparent threat posed by China, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our focus now must be on institutionalising and regularising our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” Esper said.

The comments assume significance as India is locked in a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

In June this year, 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of PLA soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, hardening the mood in India against China and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the United States.

In the US, President Donald Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week’s presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

This month, India invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with the United States and Japan, brushing off Chinese concerns that the exercises destabilise the region.

(With inputs from agencies)

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper meet NSA Doval

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NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper on Tuesday held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, covering key aspects of growing strategic ties between the two countries.

Issues of strategic importance were discussed at the meeting, sources said.

The meeting took place ahead of the third edition of 2+2 ministerial dialogue. Esper and Pompeo arrived here on Monday for the crucial talks aimed at further boosting the defence and security ties between the two countries.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held separate talks with their US counterparts on Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, both the top US administration officials visited the National War Memorial and paid tributes to India’s fallen heroes.

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