India wants to help Myanmar build a strong physical infrastructure for growth focused on creating public assets for the country rather than commercial assets for its own business, Indian ambassador Vikram Misri said here, ahead of prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit next week.
“We don’t want to do what some other countries are doing. We want to create public assets for Myanmar to use, not commercial infrastructure to primarily promote our business,” Misri told Mizzima News in an interview on Thursday.
Most of the development projects supported by India are financed by grants and some by concessional Line of Credit. “But the idea is not to create for Myanmar a financially unsustainable debt burden, our projects are to help Myanmar’s economy bloom,” he said.
The ambassador said the first two phases of the Kaladan Multi Modal project were ready, the port and inland waterways infrastructure.
“Work will soon start on the 109-km road connecting Paletwa river terminal to Zorinpui on Myanmar’s border with Mizoram state in northeast India. The construction is expected to start after the monsoon in October. The contract has been awarded,” Misri said.
But the project has not been included in Prime Minister Modi’s programme because of the situation in Rakhine state.
Ambassador Misri said Modi’s visit will focus on the bilateral “strong civilisational linkages” and project the great diversity of Myanmar’s culture.
The ambassador said India was offering and would offer more support to Myanmar during its transition to democracy “as we have the most relevant experiences to offer in nation-building, federalism, democratic participation and so much more.”
“But we don’t want to push any agenda in Myanmar, as some nations want, we don’t want to lecture Myanmar on what they should do but just offer and let them make the choice. At the end of the day, the Myanmar government and people have to decide what is best for them.”
“We may not offer Myanmar the glitziest of gadgets or the most flashy of lifestyle products but we will offer something that is relevant for Myanmar. That is because we share the same existential experience,” he said.
Misri said Modi will meet Myanmar leaders at Nay Pyi Taw on September 6 after arriving from the BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China.
“Then he will visit the Ananda Pagoda at Bagan which has been restored by Indian archaeologists who have uncovered priceless murals during the unlayering. We have put this on his programme keeping in mind the place the Ananda Pagoda has in Buddhist cosmography,” ambassador Misri said.
He said the Indian restoration work at Bagan has received huge acclaim even from the Burmese diaspora.
Misri said work on the two segments of the Asian Trilateral Highway will start after the monsoon.
“During the PM’s visit, we will also raise the issue of focusing on a softer side of hard infrastructure like roads and ports, that involves putting in place arrangements for easy border crossing and motor vehicles agreements,” he said.
“We want transport corridors to be converted into growth corridors and that is possible when you have arrangements for easy movement, liberal customs regime and that kind of thing,” Misri said, adding that India wanted “a cascading impact on local economy to come from the new physical infrastructure created”.
Misri said India would open up its higher education sector, including specialised areas like Infotech, banking, finance with more scholarships.
“We will review all these arrangements during PM Modi’s visit and we will try to do what Myanmar wants,” said Misri.
He hinted that some energy projects with Indian support were also up for consideration.