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Red carpet for Burmese junta but th
Red carpet for Burmese junta but there are a few wrinkles
The Indian Express (New Delhi)
November 15, 2000
New Delhi, November 14
The Indian establishment seems divided down the middle over the visit of
the highest-ranking delegation from the Myanmarese military regime in a
decade. It began its trip to India in Bodh Gaya today.
Aware that it needs to closely collaborate with the Myanmarese regime,
especially over the problems of insurgency and drug trafficking plaguing
India?s north-eastern border, new Delhi will bull out all stops when Gen
Maung Aye and his party arrive in the capital on Friday.
In an unusual move, the Myanmarese delegation is being accorded the
status of a ?state visit?, complete with a ceremonial reception on the
forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan on Friday morning. Home Minister L K
Advani and former Army chief V P Malik will also call on its leader, Gen
Maung Aye, vice-chairman of the State Peace and Development Council and
the second most important man in Myanmar.
There are, however, no-table absentees in this welcome being mounted
with such alacrity by New Delhi. It is believed that the wife of
President K R Narayanan, Usha Narayanan, has refused to receive Gen
Maung and his party, when they call on the President on the evening of
Nor will she meet the General?s wife, Daw Mya Mya San, or their
daughter, Daw Nander Aye, who are part of the official delegation to
India. The General?s wife is said to be a doctor and a ?very
Defence Minister George Fernandes will also not call on the Myanmarese
generals. The official reason is ?this is a political visit and that Gen
Maung is not wearing his military hat on this trip to India.?
Fernandes? sympathy towards the cause of the Burmese rebels is
well-known as are his views towards the pro-democracy movement of Aung
San Suu Kyi. A couple of years ago, Fernandes had even hosted some of
the rebels at his official residence in the capital.
On November 20, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will hold talks with
Gen Maung and his delegation while Minister for External Affairs Jaswant
Singh ? who will miss the Myanmarese on Friday because he is in London
will call on him.
The division within the establishment, in fact, reflects domestic
cleavages over India?s policy towards Myanmar. New Delhi?s on-off policy
on its eastern neighbour over the past decade, since the military regime
took over power from Suu Kyi?s party, has for a large part resulted in a
haphazard public policy.
In July 1995, for example, in the middle of a joint operation between
the Indian and Myanmarese armies against the ULFA, NSCN and other
insurgents in the north-east ? code-named Operation Golden Bird ? the
Centre announced that it was awarding its highest civilian honour, the
Jawaharlal Nehru Prize for Peace and Understanding, to Suu Kyi.
Sources in the armed forces, furious at the decision by the Ministry of
External Affairs, told The Indian Express that the Myanmarese army had
taken causalities fighting Indian insurgents. The result was that in the
middle of the operation, Yangon ordered the army to pull out.
Diplomats in the Government said New Delhi was at the time being torn
asunder with varying views on how to deal with Myanmar. The Nehru Prize
was stalled for one year but finally the Narosimha Rao Government gave
in to pressure form various quarters.