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Pakistan, Myanmar to forge trade re

Agence France Presse

May 3, 2001, Thursday 5:03 AM, Eastern Time

Pakistan, Myanmar to forge trade relationship between military govts


Pakistan and Myanmar will forge new trade and commerce links to tighten the 
bonds between Asia's two military governments, Pakistani leader General 
Pervez Musharraf said Thursday.

Before departing for Vietnam at the end of a three-day official visit, 
Musharraf said the two regimes had plenty in common.

"The fact that the two of us are a uniform culture means that there's a 
certain bond between each other," he told reporters.

"Pakistan certainly wishes to get closer to Myanmar," he said, adding that 
Myanmar leader Senior General Than Shwe shared the sentiment. "The future 
looks very bright."

Musharraf said two-way annual trade between Myanmar and Pakistan currently 
totalled just 20 million dollars.

"We want to have better future relations in trade and commerce ... that's 
why I brought a team with members who could focus on the issue of the 
economic relationship," he said.

"The best way to build the relationship is to bring the two private sectors 

The delegation, including Science and Technology Minister Ataur Rahman and 
Export Promotion Bureau chairman Tariq Ikram, discussed cooperation in 
information technology and biotechnology as
well as textiles and agriculture.

Musharraf said Than Shwe had agreed to make an official visit to Pakistan 
in the near future, and trips were also being planned by business 
delegations from each country.

The Pakistani leader's first official visit to Myanmar represents a bid by 
the junta for recognition outside the Association of Southeast Asian 
Nations (ASEAN) which it joined four years ago.

Musharraf is the first non-ASEAN leader to travel to Myanmar since 1988, 
when a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy forces earned it the ire of the 
international community.

In a sign of the warming relationship, 800 Pakistani sailors aboard a 
destroyer, a tanker and a submarine last week made the first foreign naval 
visit to Myanmar in 14 years.

Analysts said that as well as a getting-to-know-you exercise, Musharraf's 
visit was an opportunity to ensure Pakistan is not left out as India moves 
to tighten its relationship with Myanmar.

"Although India is aiming at balancing power with China, it means the two 
countries are leaving Pakistan out," said Myanmar-watcher Chayachoke 
Chulasiriwongs from Thailand's Chulalongkorn University.

"Pakistan would like to come into this triangular relationship."

Myanmar's official press made much Thursday of the military backgrounds of 
the two nations, and hailed the visit as a resounding success "which 
further strengthened the already strong ties."

"Both General Musharraf and Senior General Than Shwe are soldier-statesmen 
in their own right, having weathered similar storms and having been given 
the helmsmenship of state under similar circumstances," the New Light of 
Myanmar said.

"The two leaders ... are dedicated soldiers hoisted by the needs of history 
into the arena of national politics."

Musharraf's visit, the first by a Pakistani leader since late military 
ruler Mohammad Zia ul Haq came here in 1985, will be followed by a two-day 
trip to communist Vietnam.