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India, Burma sign wide-ranging economic deals

Burma and India tightened trade and connectivity ties in wide-ranging commitments signed on Monday in Naypyitaw.

Indian Prime Minister Monmohan Singh and Burmese President Thein Sein in Naypyitaw on Monday, May 28, 2012. Photo: President's officeIndian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and President Thein Sein emphasized the importance of trade agreements, cultural exchanges and enhancing connectivity between the two countries.

They noted that Indian development projects in Burma under grants and concession loans amount to US$ 1.2 billion, and they agreed to identify more projects to benefit the people of Burma in future, according to a joint statement.
The leaders signed a MoU on a US$ 500 million Line of Credit extended by India. The Line of Credit will used in infrastructure development projects in areas including agriculture and irrigation, rail transportation and electric power.

Singh announced that India would undertake the task of repair and upgrade on 71 bridges on the Tamu- Kalewa friendship Road. The project will help in establishing trilateral connectivity from Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Burma. The two leaders also welcomed the revival of the Joint Task Force on the Trilateral Highway between India - Burma - Thailand. It was agreed that efforts would be made to establish seamless trilateral connectivity by 2016.
Taking into account the importance of enabling people-to-people contacts, the two sides agreed to launch a trans-border bus service from Imphal, India, to Mandalay, Burma.

They also welcomed the signing of a new Air Service agreement that would expand direct air connectivity and facilitate easy business interaction, tourism and people-to people exchanges.
They also discussed the possibility of Indian participation in the development of key infrastructure projects, like Dawei port.
 In the border area, India agreed to upgrade roads and construction of schools, health centres, bridges, agriculture and related training activities in the area.
In science and technology, a Joint Working Group has identified some priority areas for future cooperation in the fields of agricultural biotechnology, post-harvest technology, medical biotechnology, medical research and renewable energy.  
A Myanmar Institute of Information Technology with financial and technical assistance from India will be established, and the prime minister announced continued technical and financial support for the India-Myanmar Centre for Enhancement of IT Skills in Rangoon for another five-year period. Fellowships will be awarded in the areas of atmospheric and earth sciences, chemical sciences, engineering sciences, life sciences, medical sciences, mathematical and computational sciences and physical sciences.
The existing number of training slots for Burma, including under the Indian Economic and Technical Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, would be doubled from the current 250 to 500.

The two sides expressed their commitment to enhance cooperation in the area of agriculture. Under a MoU, the two leaders pledged to establish the Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education as a Centre for Excellence using cutting edge technology along with traditional knowledge and ecological conservation with financial and technical assistance from India. They also agreed to set up a Rice Bio Park within the Department of Agricultural Research.
Trade and Investment
The two sides confirmed the mutually agreed target of doubling bilateral trade by 2015, and both leaders emphasized that there is considerable untapped potential for greater trade and urged the business community to capitalize on this potential. Investments by Indian companies in areas like ports, highways, oil and gas, plantations, manufacturing, and hospitality would be specifically encouraged.

They promised they would work to identify and remove various impediments to bilateral trade. In this context, they welcomed the establishment of a representative office of the United Bank of India in Rangoon as a first step in facilitating business-friendly banking transactions between the two countries.

Burmese officials will receive training in Indian banks and in the agricultural bank sector. Considering the vast potential for promoting trade between the two countries, both sides agreed that the Reserve Bank of India would sign an MoU with the Central Bank of Myanmar on currency arrangements between India and Myanmar in the near future.
Power and Energy
The two leaders emphasized the need for closer cooperation to further energy security. They said they will encouraged investment by Indian companies in Burma’s oil and gas sector, including in available blocks that are being offered for investment. They also agreed to encourage investment by Indian companies in downstream projects in the petroleum industry.
Thein Sein expressed his appreciation to India for undertaking the preparation of a Detailed Project Report on the Tamanthi and Shwezaye hydropower projects.
Burma expressed satisfaction at the ongoing pace of work on the project for conservation and restoration of the Ananda Temple in Bagan by the Archaeological Survey of India, which is expected to be completed over the next two years.