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PM Narendra Modi arrives in Myanmar to attend ASEAN, East Asia summits
Nov 11, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday arrived in neighbouring Myanmar on the first leg of his three-nation 10-day tour that will also take him to Australia and Fiji.

Modi arrived here by a special Air India plane.

PM Modi is in Nay Pyi Taw to attend the ASEAN and East Asia Summits; however, he will also be meeting the leaders of the country during his stay there.

Before leaving New Delhi earlier this morning, PM Modi asserted that ASEAN is at the core of India's 'Act East' policy.

"ASEAN is at the core of our Act East Policy and at the centre of our dream of an Asian century, characterised by cooperation and integration," the Prime Minister said.

Modi said he was looking forward to discussing with ASEAN leaders how to take "our relationship to a new level, which will supplement our deepening bilateral ties with each member".

Noting that no other region in the world embodies so much dynamism or faces so many challenges as the region spanning the Indian Ocean, continental Asia and Pacific Ocean, he said the East Asia Summit has the potential to shape this region and the world's future.

"At the East Asia Summit, I look forward to discussing with ASEAN and seven global leaders how we can strengthen regional institutions, international norms and regional cooperation in pursuit of peace, stability and prosperity," the PM said in a statement.

In Myanmar, the Indian Prime Minister will hold talks with President Thein Sein as well as opposition leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi among others.

This will be the first time that Modi will meet Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy icon.

"The Prime Minister will be meeting Aung San Suu Kyi," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin had said last week.

Myanmar is in the midst of a national debate on whether to allow Suu Kyi, an opposition leader, to contest the 2015 Parliamentary Elections, which she is barred from at present, due to a provision in the Constitution. Suu Kyi had last visited India in November 2012, after being freed from years-long house arrest.

From strategic point of view, Myanmar is a very important neighbour for India, both for security reasons and as a gateway to Southeast Asia.

An ambitious project is underway to develop a 3,200-km highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand. It was originally envisaged to be completed around 2017 but it is behind schedule and is now expected to be completed in 2018.

Akbaruddin said the PM wishes to meet as many leaders as possible during his foreign visits and there will be several interactions on the sidelines of the multilateral events.

PM Modi will attend the 12th ASEAN-India Summit and the 9th East Asian Summit in Nay Pyi Taw on November 12 and November 13 respectively. In Australia, he will be attending the G-20 Summit in Brisbane on November 15-16.

On the sidelines of the G-20 Summit, PM Modi is set to hold “one-on-one meetings” with an array of world leaders, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy Brey. A meeting with US President Barack Obama is also planned.

In Australia, PM Modi will also hold talks with the Australian leadership, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, on bilateral issues as well as address the Indian diaspora Down Under. The focus point of the Australia visit will be talks on the bilateral nuclear deal under which Canberra will supply uranium to New Delhi for its energy needs.

"While we have much in common with Australia, our political, strategic and economic relations have been below potential," he said.

Pitching for closer strategic partnership with Australia, he said it will support India's economic goals, "promote our security interests, including maritime security, and reinforce our efforts to foster a climate of peace and stability in our extended continental and maritime neighbourhood."

Modi will be the first Indian PM to visit Australia in 28 years since Rajiv Gandhi in 1986.

The PM will reach Fiji, his final stop, on November 19 for bilateral talks with the leadership of the Pacific nation. It will be the first visit to Fiji by an Indian PM since 1981 when Indira Gandhi had travelled to the island nation.

Modi said it will be his privilege to visit Fiji, with which India shares "historical and ethnic links', soon after the return of democracy in September this year.

"We also owe them a debt of gratitude for hosting our scientists on the island in support of our Mars Mission," Modi, who will be meeting leaders and representatives of 12 Pacific Island nations, said.

Out of the 849,000 population in Fiji, 37 per cent people are of Indian origin. Many Indians arrived in Fiji as indentured labour in the 19th century.