Indian vice president to visit Burma

Jan 20, 2009 (DVB), Preparations are underway for the visit of Indian vice president Hamid Ansari to Burma in early February, according to the Indian press.

The planned visit of Ansari is timed to take place before the meeting of leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations.

State Peace and Development Council prime minister general Thein Sein is also due to meet Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh at the ASEAN summit, which India will be attending as a discussion partner.

Newspapers in India reported that the vice president will work to secure deals on natural gas and other energy sources during his trip, and will discuss the Htamanthi hydroelectric plants near Homlin and Shwe Sayit in Sagaing division.

Ko Kin, a spokesperson for the Shwe Gas Movement which campaigns against the sale of natural gas to foreign countries by the SPDC, said there were two main reasons for the visit.

"The first reason is that the gas India wanted to buy was snatched away by China, and India is now trying to coax the SPDC into selling the remaining gas to India," Ko Kin said.

"Secondly, the SPDC is being denounced diplomatically by the international community but India is trying to stand behind the SPDC politically so that it can get the gas," he said.

"India’s vice president is going to visit the SPDC in Burma for these two reasons."

In 2006, the then Indian president Abdul Kalam visited Burma and former vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat visited the country in 2003.

Bilateral talks between the two countries have focused on strengthening relations and trade, and India has not pressured the Burmese leadership to release political prisoners or to implement democratic reforms.

Reporting by Khin Maung Soe Min

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