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India seeks stronger ties with Myanmar

June 20, 2011 at 7:22 AM

NEW DELHI, June 20 (UPI) -- India's External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna traveled Monday to Myanmar, where a civilian government took over in March after decades of military rule.

The high level Indian delegation, which includes Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, will seek to strengthen bilateral ties, especially commercial and economic relations during its three-day visit to the strategically important country, the Press Trust of India reported.

India and China have maintained close ties with Myanmar over the years despite criticisms from the West stemming from Myanmar's poor human rights record. Of late, China's influence in that country has reportedly been growing.

Krishna will meet with Myanmar's new President Thein Sein and other top leaders.

"This will be our first engagement with Myanmar after a new civilian government assumed office in March," India's Economic Times reported, quoting a government source.

"This visit and the meetings will give us an opportunity to take stock of our broad-based engagement with Myanmar and get a better feel of realities and the outlook of the new government."

Bilateral trade between India and Myanmar, formerly called Burma, has increased from $12.4 million in 1980 to $1.2 billion last year, PTI reported. Investments by India, Myanmar's fourth largest trading partner after Thailand, Singapore and China, include oil and gas sectors to hydroelectric power and railways.

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