India calls for immediate phasing out of curbs against Myanmar

India has called for immediate phasing out of unilateral sanctions against Myanmar, emphasising that the international community should extend all possible support to Yangoon's new civilian government to help accelerate economic development in the country that had faced economic isolation under years of military rule.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said as a "close and friendly" neighbour of Myanmar, India remains committed to extending all possible assistance and support to the process of national reconciliation and further strengthening of the democracy in Myanmar.

"As Myanmar confronts multifarious challenges ahead the international community as a whole needs to extend all possible support to the efforts of the government in a spirit of trust and cooperation," he said during a meeting of the 'Group of Friends' of the UN chief on Myanmar here yesterday.

Given Myanmar's political transition, Mathai said the UN agencies and international financial institutions now have the opportunity to carry out an entire gamut of developmental activities.

"We would also urge that unilateral sanctions should be immediately phased out so that Myanmar's economic development can be accelerated. India has consistently emphasized the path of engagement with Myanmar to encourage the advancement of national reconciliation as well socio-economic development," he said.

Following the implementation of political reforms by Myanmar, the US has been gradually lifting sanctions against the country. It had lifted sanctions on American investment in Myanmar in June and last week lifted long-standing sanctions on President Thein Sein and parliamentary speaker Thura Shwe Mann.

It would also begin easing restrictions on imports of goods from the south east Asian country in recognition of efforts by its government to bring the country back on the road to democracy. India would be facilitating parliamentary exchanges between the two countries by sharing its experience. As many as 80 members would be participating in a programme developed by India that will focus on introduction to and training on parliamentary practices and procedures for members of the Myanmar parliament and parliamentary Secretariat officials.

Mathai said India is also working closely with Myanmar on various infrastructure and development cooperation projects, with particular attention to capacity building and human resource development.

"We believe Myanmar could play a great role in expanding our engagement into ASEAN. We look forward to Myanmar's planned Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014," Mathai said.

Referring to the recent developments in Rakhine state, Mathai said India noted the steps taken by Myanmar towards restoration of law and order and ensuring peace and stability in the areas affected by violence and in meeting relief and rehabilitation needs of the affected communities.

India has also extended an assistance of USD 200,000 towards immediate relief for those affected. Mathai added that the Group should also consider having the participation of Myanmar in its meetings in future.

"A dialogue on development which will bring in the presence of Myanmar may be the best way forward," he said. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Adviser for Myanmar Vijay Nambiar said the United Nations would continue to assist the people of Myanmar to address the various challenges facing the country.

"We have taken note of the progress made by the Government of Myanmar," Nambiar told reporters after the Group of Friends meeting. "We hope it will continue and result in the strengthening democratic institutions and forging peace with all ethnic and religious groups in the country.

"The United Nations will continue to do its part to help the people of Myanmar to address the political, humanitarian and developmental challenges facing their country."

Myanmar has been undergoing a series of democratic reforms, led by President Sein. They include by-elections held earlier this year for the parliament, to which Nobel laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who was released from nearly two decades of house arrest in November 2010, was elected. A second wave of reforms was announced in June.

Addressing the Assembly's General Debate yesterday, Sein said while Myanmar is making progress in its democratic transition, it faces a number of formidable challenges that will require both the continued support and patience of its people, the UN and the wider international community.

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