PM embarks on last official foreign tour

PM embarks on last official foreign tour

PM embarks on last official foreign tour

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday travelled to Myanmar in what could be his last official international tour after being in the office for 10 years as one of the longest serving Indian Prime Ministers.

Singh plans to use his last foreign assignment to renew India’s friendship with the neighbours through a series of bilateral meetings with Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The bilateral meetings happen on the sidelines of the third summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) at Naypyitaw, Myanmar, where leaders from several South Asian countries have assembled. The last BIMSTEC summit took place in New Delhi in 2008.

“With the impending establishment of a permanent secretariat in Dhaka and appointment of a Secretary General, BIMSTEC is poised to play a more active role in regional integration and cooperation,” he said in his departing statement. "Our bilateral relations with BIMSTEC countries are among our most important in the world," he noted.

Singh’s talks with Rajapaksa comes three months after the prime minister skipped a visit to the island nation to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) due to pressure from Tamil parties and within government. India's decision disappointed Sri Lanka.

The prime minister would try to convince his Bangladesh counterpart on India’s commitment towards sharing of Teesta water and resolving the land boundary dispute. This will be Singh’s first meeting with Hasina after her party Awami League won the parliamentary election, bagging 231 seats in the face of a boycott by BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance.

The prime minister, who is travelling to Myanmar after a gap of nearly two years, would also be holding talks with the Myanmar leadership before returning on Tuesday.