Category Archives: Top Stories

Eliminating Blood Honey and Support Tiger Conservation in The Sunderbans

Tiger Consrvation in the Sunderbans

The boat glides slowly into a channel between two islands. The silhouettes of the mangrove trees rear up like sentinels into the clear night sky, just hours before dawn. Sanatan Sardar, 35, barely notices the mysterious beauty of the Sundarbans forests, he is more concerned about guiding his boat with his group into the Sundarbans to collect wild honey.

Moulis like Sanatan are the traditional honey gatherers in the Sundarbans who venture into the forest during honeycollection season, which lasts for about three months in a year.

Sanatan is from the Sardarpara village on Satjelia island of Sundarbans and is the leader of his group, the most experienced and skilled. His group, mostly family members, venture out together with each trip lasting between 7-15 days. The Forest Department issues a license every season to leaders like Sanatan for collection of wild honey from the Sundarbans. Over 3000 honey collectors are issued permits each year to enter designated forest areas for honey collection. Honey collectors make nearly 6000 rupees every month during the season. However, such forays into the forest are fraught with danger. In the past 15 years, nearly 100 honey collectors have lost their lives to tiger attacks. Therefore, the moniker ‘blood honey’.

Sanatan and his group are well aware of this danger and exercise precautions. While in the forest, certain members of the group specially act as look outs for tigers and post collection, each group anchor their boat only in the middle of the creek between islands to prevent tiger attacks. However, in spite of such precautions, honey collectors are still at risk. These men are the sole earning members of their families, and an attack could put the future of an entire family at risk.

WWF-India has been working in the Sundarbans since 1973 with a focus on conserving its biodiversity, particularly tigers, as well as promoting alternate livelihood and clean energy solutions for local communities to reduce conflict with wildlife and pressures on natural habitat with the objective of achieving a harmonious co-existence in the region. This issue of wild honey collection and its impact on the lives of honey collectors is a priority concern for WWF-India as well as the policy and decision makers in Sundarbans.

Sustainable and safe honey production

Apiculture in forest fringes of Indian Sundarbans within the state of West Bengal with Apis mellifera is in large scale. Approximately 5,545,281 kg of honey valuing 419,676,874 was produced over a period of seven years (2005–2012) from the apiculture. WWF-India believes that the fatal casualties associated with the livelihood of honey collection can be avoided if traditional honey collectors are permitted to keep apiary boxes in designated forest areas to produce honey instead of going into the forest to extract wild honey. Human-wildlife interaction will thereby be reduced to zero and at the same time the community will be assured of a harvest. This option will also help in receiving community support for tiger conservation in the Indian Sundarbans. WWF-India in collaboration with Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Directorate have designed pilot studies since 2014 to establish a safe and sustainable honey production in Sundarbans.

Honey BeeExcerpts from the pilot studies

The results of the pilot studies exceeded expectations!The daily yield of honey from each apiary box has been nearly double the quantity collected by groups such as those of Sanatan’s. The honey prepared in these boxes were tested for quality at the Kolkata lab of Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS)and Bose Institute, Kolkata and it matched the standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).The results of the study bode well for groups such as Sanatan’s who by setting up such apiary boxes can avoid going into the forests of Sundarbans. Collection of such blood-free honey, if adopted on a large scale, has the capacity to eliminate casualties due to tiger attacks.

Optimism and concerns

Sanatan Sardar is upbeat about the collaborative initiatives of WWF-India and Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Directorate initiatives in Sundarbans, as this option has emerged as a safe and secure livelihood option. In various stakeholder discussions, the honey collectors have shown interest to shift towards this secure and sustainable livelihood option. There are requests from other honey collectors in the region to be trained on apiculture and willingness to shift from the present practice.

WWF-India is engaging with the Forest Department to set up bottling units in around 46 forest fringe villages of Sundarbans which enable honey collectors to convert their product into saleable table honey to increase sales. Discussions are underway to develop institutional mechanism of honey collection, processing and marketing. Apart from this engagement, a practical manual is being prepared in association with scientific institutions for the honey collectors to maintain industry standards. It is also important to eliminate middle men from the chain and ensure that the local communities directly sell their products in the market.

More ground to cover

WWF-India believes that there is more ground to cover regarding long term sustainability and scalability of this initiative which would stand scientific scrutiny. WWF-India in collaboration with premiere scientific institutes are carrying out ecological studies to assess carrying capacity and pollination ecology to estimate honey yield. The carrying capacity of Sundarbans forests will help determine how many apiary boxes can be placed to ensure economic feasibility of this initiative at a large scale. Further, WWF-India aims to create market linkages for the honey collectors to ensure a premium price for this high quality honey and is already in discussion with marketing entities and certification agencies thereby helping to improve profit margins while reducing the risks associated with this livelihood.

Courtesy: Ratul Saha, Landscape Coordinator-Sundarbans Landscape, WWF-India Team

Exploring the Hidden Gems of Myanmar

The Hidden Gems of Myanmar

One visit to Myanmar is enough to dazzle travellers. The eclectic fusion of the traditional and the modern, the old and the new entices visitors to partake of and enjoy the way Myanmar thrives, despite the many challenges it faces. The discerning traveller would not miss observing the energy, hope and potential lurking in the air of Myanmar.

Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar has opened its doors to the world in the last couple of years and has become one of the go-to holiday destinations for people across the globe. Myanmar provides something to please everyone and ensures that nobody leaves its shores disappointed. The most popular tourist destinations include Yangon, Mandalay, Kalaw, Bagan to name a few. However, there are a number of places in Myanmar that have remained off the beaten track. This article uncovers such gems.


Loikaw, the smallest state of Myanmar, has largely remained untouched by tourists and is one of the least visited places in Myanmar, which adds to the charm and lure of the place. Loikaw is the capital of the Kayah State. It is located in the Karen Hills area, near the State’s northern tip. Loikaw, along with Demoso, in the Kayah State, have been opened to independent tourists only since 2013.

For a place so remote and unaffected by tourism, the large ethnic diversity one finds in Loikaw is fascinating to observe- Palaung, Shan, Kayah, Kayan are some of the groups found here, each adding their bit in making the state of Loikaw an eclectic melting pot. A stroll through the villages of Loikaw will open up interesting vistas for the tourists in the form of stunning pagodas, temples, stupas, lakes and caves. Tourists are likely to come across ‘long neck women’ wearing golden rings coiled around their necks. A curious traveller will certainly be intrigued by this unusual sight. While it is difficult to trace a reason for this, it is believed that these rings protect the Palaung women from being killed by tigers and the long neck makes them look beautiful.

Loikaw offers a quiet and serene environment to tourists, ideal for indulging their spiritual side and to introspect. One of the most popular sights in Loikaw is the famous pagoda called, ‘Taung Kwe’, towering above the town, on the top of a lime stone hill on the Mingalar Thiri Mountain. The spectacular view of the town especially during sunset makes the journey to Loikaw worthwhile. A cluster of other pagodas such as Myaka Lup pagoda, Shwe Let War pagoda and Nagayon pagoda stand behind Taung Kwe pagoda. Other places that offer a visual treat to tourists include:

i. Seven Stages Lake- a series of seven interconnected lakes, known for the scenic beauty and tranquillity they offer to the tourists.

ii. Christ the King Cathedral- built in 1939, it is Kayah’s oldest surviving church and is a fusion of traditional European architecture and local Buddhist styles.

iii. Kayah State Cultural Museumbuilt in 1996, it is a treasure trove for all the art and cultural aficionados, interested in discovering the life of the Kayah inhabitants. The museum holds a rich collection of books, traditional dresses, household utensils, weapons, paintings and musical instruments.

The sleepy city of Loikaw provides a pleasant introduction to the Kayah way of life and is a base for venturing out into the neighbouring villages.


The Hidden Gems of MyanmarSitting on the eastern bank of the Thanlwin river, the capital of Kayin (also known as Karen) State, Hpa-an is a place where time seems to stand still. The laidback atmosphere and breath-taking caves and mountains make Hpa-an a backpacker’s paradise. Thanks to the new highway linking Hpa-an to the Thai border at Mae Sot and Yangon, and improved border crossing facilities at Myawaddy, this remote place is witnessing a steady flow of visitors, especially from the neighbouring Thailand.

The population of Hpa-an, about 421,575 (2014 census), predominantly comprises people of the Karen ethnic group, which make up approximately seven percent of the total Burmese population. The place offers a unique opportunity to the curious traveller to know more about the local Karen culture, as majority of people have held on to their traditional ways and language.While Hpa-an is safe and peaceful for visitors, November is a good time to head there, for the visitor can experience the Karen Don festival and get a true insight into its culture.

Besides lazing around at the delightful riverside, soaking in the picturesque landscape, lush green fields, tourists have plenty to enthral them on their visit.

i. Mt. Zwegabin- Dominating the landscape of Hpa-an is Mt. Zwegabin, about 7 miles south of the town, and 2372 ft. in height. The hike to the summit is demanding, but duly compensated by the stunning 3600 views of the town on offer.

ii. Saddan Cave- Gigantic cavern filled with dozens of Buddha statues, pagodas, wall cravings and a lake, transports the traveller to a different world away from the hustle bustle.

iii. Kyauk Ka Lat Pagoda- Perched atop a limestone pinnacle, this unique and surreal pagoda almost seems to defy gravity.

iv. Kaw Gun Cave- Located near Kawgun village, this is a natural limestone cave and is covered with several Buddha statues, many dating back to the seventh century.

While Hpa-an may not be the preferred place to visit on the trip to Myanmar, it certainly is worth a visit and offers spectacular vistas for the tourists.


The Hidden Gems of MyanmarBeing closed for tourism until early 2013, Dawei is largely undeveloped and unexplored. But, therein lies an opportunity for an adventurous traveller, looking for an authentic and novel experience. Dawei offers jaded travellers everything that a metropolitan city does not- peace, fresh air, pristine beaches, solitude, few people et al.

Dawei is the capital of the Tanintharyi Region and got its independence from the British rule in 1948. It has enormous potential for tourism, as it has something for everyoneuntouched coastline, jungle interior, sprinkling of islands, beautiful pagodas and white sand beaches. With imminent development threatening to disturb the idyllic and untouched environment of Dawei, a trip to Dawei makes for a great treat. Some of the places that could be explored besides lazing around in the town are:

i. Maungmagan Beach- The most popular beach with the locals, around 12 km west of Dawei, Maungmagan has seen a semblance of development; some tea shops, beer stations and restaurants.

ii. Nabule Beach- Tourists can head to Nabule Beach around 15 km north if they want to experience stunning white sands of the Nabule Beach, away from humanity.

iii. Shwe Taung Zar Pagoda- The main religious site in Dawei, the Shwe Taung Zar Pagoda is a sprawling complex of shrines and statues.

Dawei is one of those places where one could just relax and do nothing.

Rudyard Kipling described Burma (now Myanmar) as, “This is Burma. It will be quite unlike any land you know about.” It is calling out loud to travellers, time to answer the call.

Courtesy- Arun Arora is a writer, trekker and a traveler who shares his experiences on various digital portals.

2017 Horasis Asia Meeting to Promote Business in Mandalay

2017 Horasis Asia Meeting

An international conference organised to beckon business leaders and government representatives to boost Mandalay’s business landscape was held in Kolkata, India recently.

Mandalay – the second largest city in Myanmar – is considered the economic powerhouse and cultural hub of Myanmar.

Speaking at the 2017 Horasis Asia Meeting, Chief Minister of Mandalay Region Government Dr. Zw Myint Maung urged foreign participants to invest in this central region of Myanmar for it is the nerve centre of the country with its commercial activities, educational and health domain being its primary growth drivers. He solicited and advised delegates to chart a business course to amplify and reap from the development opportunities of Mandalay.

Themes permeating the session comprised ‘Start-ups and Entrepreneurship’, ‘Partnerships in Competition’ and ‘Knowledge as a Public Good’.

The Horasis Asia Meeting annually invites representatives and delegates from developing and developed markets to Asia’s seminal business congregation to bolster investment prospects, regional cooperation while ensuring sustainable growth opportunities. In 2017, the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Government of West Bengal jointly hosted the Horasis Asia Meeting later in November.

Myanmar’s cordiality with India and vice versa, got re-affirmed with the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Myanmar wherein he offered Government of India’s support in restoring and revamping the Ananada Temple that got severely damaged due to the forces of earthquake. Thus, Mr. Maung expressed, optimism between the two nations and greeted India’s policies – Neighbourhood First and Act East Policy – as the integrative podium of better and stronger relations between both the countries.

Israel Supports Myanmar in Agriculture

Israel Supports Myanmar in Agriculture

Israel’s Ambassador Mr. Daniel Zohar Zonshine in a very confident and undeterred pose expressed his interest in continuing to support the agricultural sector of Myanmar even amid the outbreak of an indurate political occurrence, sweeping Myanmar to the den of criticism.

He established investor’s protection and security as the pivotal premise in being able to pave way for a robust and engaging economic relationship between Israel and Myanmar. In other words, an economic environment that has the potential of attracting the interest and confidence of an investor should be the primary goal. He acknowledged that an investor’s security generates and accelerates the investment canvas of a country and thus, Myanmar’s investment interactions should be recognised in this light.

Israel Supports Myanmar in AgricultureIsrael’s involvement in reforming and realigning the agricultural sector of Myanmar’s is over 20 years old. Its support in providing advanced technological know-how and proficient expertise has helped Myanmar in redefining its agricultural scale.

In the past, Israel has successfully conducted agriculture – training programmes for Myanmar students, allowing them to study and work in private rural settlement areas. Getting paid for their research projects which range from greenhouse activities to husbandry farming, has been encouraged too.

Being an agriculturally driven economy,the Israeli efforts in welcoming the Burmese students to their pool of technology, and exposing them to their level of efficiency and farming practise, Myanmar’s future in agriculture seems positive and supported. The training camp running for 11 months ensures an evolved youth who is well versed in all stages of agriculture; from planning, preparation, cultivation to harvest and post-harvest etcetera.

While remarking on the collaborative relation with Myanmar in the agricultural sector, Mr. Zohar Zonshine also noted, “Agriculture is a chain: by strengthening one link, you may not necessarily get better results unless the whole chain is improved. It has to do with agriculture research, access to technology and finance, and farmers being able to access information, data, and infrastructure. Other areas to have added value are developing the processing industry – it gives more jobs for people who cannot continue with agriculture, and leaves more added value in the country.”

It is in the best interest of both the countries to aid in training and capacity building aspects of human resource engaged in agricultural work. The ambassador also mentioned about an Israeli company’s presence in Myanmar – Netafim, helping Myanmar with its drip and micro-irrigation products. Thus, an active exchange of expertise, skills and technical know-how has helped Myanmar’ agriculture sector improve and develop.

The Rohingya Rampage

The Rohingya Rampage

For the past few years migration has been the most significant topic of debate, dissent and discussion around the world. From Trump’s wall along the US-Mexico border to the sands of the Middle East, and from the shores of the Mediterranean to the jungles of Central Africa, conflicts and economic crises have forced many out of their homes and on a seemingly never-ending search for safety. It is indeed true that many of those seeking refuge do actually need it. At the same time, it is also true – as has been stated in countless reports – that unchecked immigration brings with it a gamut of threats for a host culture, a nation and, ultimately, a civilization.

By now everyone who follows the news, even occasionally, is aware of the plight of the Rohingyas. Driven out of their homes in Myanmar, the Rohingyas are fleeing their ravaged lands for shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh by crossing riverine areas. The history of Rohingyas and the debate over whether Myanmar is right or wrong is beyond the scope of this article. But whatever history is available in the public domain points that the Bengali-speaking Rohingyas were settled in the Arakan region by the British, who brought the people from neighbouring lands in what is now Bangladesh. It is also noteworthy that the Rohingya issue is not new. The northwest region of Myanmar has been burning for the past many years now. But international criticism mounted following the government’s crackdown on the armed terrorist group called Arakan-Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) which, as a collateral damage, has led to the mass exodus of the Rohingyas. The United Nations calls Rohingyas “the world’s most persecuted community”.

Rohingya Majority in Rakhine State MyanmarThe condition of Rohingyas is indeed appalling. In fact, all ethnic minority communities in any of the Asian or African countries live on at the edge of a precipice. Political or religious persecution can either force them to seek refuge in other nations or, in worst cases, push them off the cliff to their doom. Being the world’s most diverse (yet united) country, India has served as an example for the world. It has been home to refugees from neighbouring nations in the past as well; most notably the Tibetans. India is, therefore, being criticised for the government’s decision to deport the Rohingyas, who, according to government estimates, number at around 40,000. The supporters of the Rohingyas are unable to believe that a nation which has been home to many other ethnic minority groups in the past is now taking such a “nonhumanitarian” stand. But the Indian government has given its own reasons for this approach. In their affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the government defended its decision to deport the Rohingyas on the grounds of national security. In their 16- page affidavit, the government pointed at, among other things, the demographic change, illegal activity being committed by Rohingyas, and their terror links with groups including Islamic State. The details of the affidavit have already been extensively discussed, defended or criticized by journalists, columnists and experts in the media.

At the same time, questions have been raised in public domain on how the Rohingyas reached all the way up to Jammu and “settled” there. Separatist leaders extending their vocal support to Rohingyas residing in the state have been criticised for not standing up in a similar manner for the Kashmiri Pandits – the largest internally displaced group in India. Articles have been written highlighting how in the name of the action against the Rohingyas in Myanmar, terrorists attacked the Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya and some fundamentalists in Mumbai went on rampage during the Azad Maidan riots. It has also been pointed out that Rohingyas, too, have skeletons in their own closet.

The ARSA has been accused by Myanmar for attacks on government forces. In fact, Myanmar claims that its actions are targeted against this terrorist group, which it considers a threat to its national security. The group has also been accused of killing other ethnic population in Rakhine – the Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed that the group receives support from terrorist organisations in other countries, particularly Pakistan and Middle East. While taking a sympathetic approach towards Rohingyas, a New York Times article in September this year had been unable to ignore the rapid rise in Islamic radicalisation in Myanmar.

In fact radicalism of the refugees has been a prime concern of many political commentators for genuine reasons.

The Rohingya Rampage

In September this year, Al Qaeda’s Yemen chief urged Muslims to show solidarity with the Rohingyas by attacking the “enemies of God”. These and other economic reasons have even made Bangladesh – where the highest number of Rohingyas have taken refuge – admit that they pose a security risk. Asaduzzaman Khan, Bangladeshi Home Minister, had expressed his fears to the ABC in the following words: “It (the Rohingya refugee problem) will be our threat in the future. These people left everything. For their survival, they will do anything. Anyone can easily purchase them. They can join the international terrorist groups also.” This is why Bangladesh, too, wants the international community to mount pressure on Myanmar to take the refugees back. And while the international community, particularly the rights agencies, are repeatedly highlighting the “plight pain and suffering” of the Rohingyas, they are doing precious little to address the concerns of the host nations. And then there are voices that claim that the Indian Government is seeing Rohingyas as Muslims and not as refugees. That the population of Muslims – a minority – has steadily risen in India and that they enjoy all the guarantees under our Constitution and hold the highest of offices in the country are perhaps the best answers to such divisive voices. Muslims in India have been coexisting peacefully with members of other religions because of the secular nature of both the society and the law. The Constitution may have included the word ‘secular’ much later but the ethos was ingrained in the people of the country since way, way before independence. On the contrary, the condition of minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh is indescribably pathetic. The major reason is the complete absence of a secular ethos and the idea in their legal system.

Reports in the media have revealed that Hindu Rohingyas have become targets of fundamentalists in the refugee camp in Bangladesh. Women have had to move around without the vermillion on their foreheads, which is an identifier of any married Hindu woman. (Daily Mail – Sep 25 and 26, 2017) Fundamentalists are allegedly busy converting Hindu Rohingyas than helping people in distress in Bangladesh’s refugee camp – a revelation not even those who are supporting the Rohingyas have been able to deny.

The Rohingya Rampage

It has been alleged that many of those voices which stand up for Rohingyas become silent when it comes to persecution of other minority groups in Islamic countries. It has also been pointed out that many of the rich Islamic countries are only doing lip-service to the Rohingyas. “Isn’t it ironical that the Islamic nations aiding Rohingya jihad and slamming Myanmar are reluctant to give refuge to the fleeing Rohingyas?” asked Brahma Chellany on Twitter. It is a point that the international rights groups are deliberately ignoring. How can some nations have the right to refuse refugees while others don’t? And then there are many questions being asked around by concerned citizens: How can a nation, which is already besieged on all sides by terrorism take the risk of giving shelter to an ethnic group which provides fundamentalists within the country and outside a fertile recruitment ground? How can a nation which already has a hundred thousand mouths to feed afford another 40,000 who will no doubt multiply in large numbers because of a host of social and economic reasons already discussed in public domain? How will India provide them jobs when there are so few for Indians themselves? Who will guarantee that the Rohingyas will not be used as vote banks by the political class? How will the Rohingya who come from a world where a secular ethos we see in India has never been practiced understand India’s multicultural image? Those in support of Rohingyas cite our Constitution which extends rights to everyone in India. It is indeed praiseworthy for our Republic because not all constitutions around the world give such a right.

In the end, all that a sensible human being would hope is that those in distress get a life of dignity without such compromises which might put others in distress.

Courtesy: Manas Sen Gupta is a journalist who writes avidly on International Relations and Foreign Policy

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the editorial team of Myanmar’s Matters

PM Modi Visits Myanmar: A Gateway to Southeast Asia

Suu Kyi & PM Narendra Modi

The recent visit by the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi to Myanmar underlined Modi’s ‘Act East’ policy and highlighted the significance that India attaches to fostering good relations with Myanmar. With Myanmar set to walk on the path of development and liberalisation, on the back of the first democratically elected government in 2016, PM Modi’s first official bilateral visit sought to place India as the leading partner of Myanmar and give a much-needed impetus to the relations between
the two countries.

India and Myanmar have long shared historical, ethnic, cultural and religious ties. The geographical proximity (India shares a long land border of over 1600 km and a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal) has helped develop cordial relations and people-to-people contact. Ever since the two countries signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1951, there has been a steady rise in the level of engagement and cooperation between them, especially in areas of infrastructure development, trade, security, energy, health, transportation and culture, to name a few.

India realises the importance of Myanmar, not only as a gateway to South-East Asia but as a crucial partner in the fight to end insurgency in India’s north-east. Myanmar is also a crucial member of the ASEAN bloc and it is in India’s interest to have a strong and prosperous Myanmar. Myanmar, too, recognises the potential of this relationship with India and received the Indian Prime Minister with great gusto. The bilateral meeting, though marked by serious hurdles in the form of the Rohingya crisis, turned out to be mutually beneficial, as eight Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) and three agreements were signed by the two sides, covering important areas of security, infrastructure health, energy, capacity building and culture.

Map depicting India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway
Map depicting India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway

India realises the importance of Myanmar, not only as a gateway to South-East Asia but as a crucial partner in the fight to end insurgency in India’s north-east. Myanmar is also a crucial member of the ASEAN bloc and it is in India’s interest to have a strong and prosperous Myanmar. Myanmar, too, recognises the potential of this relationship with India and received the Indian Prime Minister with great gusto. The bilateral meeting, though marked by serious hurdles in the form of the Rohingya crisis, turned out to be mutually beneficial, as eight Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) and three agreements were signed by the two sides, covering important areas of security, infrastructure health, energy, capacity building and culture.


PM Modi reiterated India’s commitment to support Myanmar in building infrastructure and developing human resources capacity. Some of the projects, which directly involve India are:

  • The Trilateral Highway (India, Myanmar and Thailand), which will link India to the ASEAN bloc
  • The Kaladan Multi-modal and Transport and Transit Project, which aims to link Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and from Myanmar’s Kaladan river to India’s north-east
  • Development of Industrial Training Centres at Monywa and Thaton, following the successful completion of centres at Pakokku and Myingyan
  • Myanmar is a key component of India’s strategy to bridge South and South-East Asia through Bimstec, the Bay of Bengal Inititative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
  • Upgradation of Yagyi-Kalewa road for Rs 177 crore
  • Upgradation of the Women’s Police Training Centre at Yamethin
  • Upgradation of Yangon Childrens’ Hospital and Sittwe General Hospital
  • Construction of Monywa General Hospital
  • Operationalizing the Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education set up at the Yezin Agricultural University
    and the Rice Bio Park set up at the Department of Agricultural Research
  • Commitment to construct a new hospital in Nay Pyi Taw
Kaladan Multimodel Project
Kaladan Multimodel Project

Along with these, several other projects have been agreed upon by both the countries in IT, health, entrepreneurship, language training and small border area development projects in Chin and Naga areas of Myanmar. India has also extended $750 million in soft lines of credit for other infrastructure projects.


India’s trade with Myanmar grew by 6 per cent from US $2.05 billion in 2015-16 to US $2.18 billion in 2016-17. Both countries sought to work closely with each other to realise the tremendous potential, especially given the favourable environment for investment offered by the new democratically elected regime in Myanmar.

In their joint statement, the two countries acknowledged the importance of pulses in the bilateral trade basket. India imports around a million tonnes of pulses, $1 billion in value, from Myanmar. It is vital to Myanmar’s farmers, therefore Myanmar requested India to lift all restrictions imposed on imports from Myanmar. Myanmar has also welcomed India’s participation in its energy sector and invited Indian companies to take part in tenders for petrochemicals and petroleum products, marketing infrastructure and setting up of LPG terminals. The agreement between Numaligarh Refinery of India and Parami Energy Group of Myanmar on supply of diesel to Myanmar across the land border will give people of north Myanmar cheaper and more reliable access to petroleum products. In the energy sector too, India offered its technical and project specific assistance, for instance, it offered to conduct a solar radiation resource assessment in Myanmar, it shared its experiences in power trade and discussed ways to cooperate in the field of energy efficiency between the two countries.

India’s increasing investments in Myanmar also assume importance, in the light of Chinese interest in Myanmar. China has, in recent times, increased its presence in Myanmar and is even pushing for a special economic zone at KyaukPhyu among other projects.

Cultural Engagement

Given the close cultural and religious ties the people of the two countries share, culture is bound to be an important thrust area, as was highlighted in the visit of PM Modi. The two sides signed the Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) for the period 2017-20 and expressed confidence that this would promote cultural exchanges between Myanmar and the North-Eastern states of India. PM Modi also visited Bagan, where the Archaeological Survey of India has restored the Ananda Temple and is involved in the restoration and conservation of 92 pagodas and structures damaged by the 2016 earthquake.

Religion forms a big part of the cultural heritage of the two countries. Bodh Gaya in India remains a place of pilgrimage for the people of Myanmar. Myanmar welcomed India’s efforts in preserving the stone inscriptions and temples of King Mindon and King Bagyidaw of Myanmar in Bodh Gaya.

Another gesture that was praised and welcomed by both the Government and the people of Myanmar, was India’s decision to grant special pardon to 40 Myanmar nationals undergoing imprisonment for various crimes in India.

Former Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on his visit to Myanmar in 2012, observed that “India and Myanmar are natural partners, linked by geography and history.” With PM Modi’s emphasis on developing relations with India’s neighbours, both countries are likely to work in unison to ensure enhanced people to people contact and a healthy environment for development.


The 1643 km long land border that the two countries share and the belligerent posturing by China necessitates close cooperation between India and Myanmar, vis-à-vis security and defence. This formed an important facet of the discussions held among the leaders of the two sides. Terrorism and extremist-inspired violence remain a cause of concern, to counter which, both countries have affirmed their intent to work together. The two sides condemned terrorist attacks on Amarnath Yatra and the Rakhine State, and jointly called for the quick adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by the UN General Assembly.

Mr. Modi’s government recently inked a US $37.9 million-worth lightweight torpedo with Myanmar. India has also begun supplying arms and communication equipment to the Armed Forces of Myanmar, to secure the sensitive border. The two sides also signed an MoU to strengthen maritime security cooperation, even in non-traditional security domains, such as “humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, which are critical for safeguarding the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.”

Indian army is engaged in providing training to the Myanmar army to prepare them for UN peace keeping duties, a step considered essential to redeem their global image.

Myanmar, on its part, reaffirmed “its respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India” and upheld the policy of “not allowing any insurgent group to utilise Myanmar’s soil to undertake hostile acts against the Indian Government.”

The Rohingya Crisis

Even as India and Myanmar look to scale up their engagement, the two countries need to quickly tackle the crisis of Rohingya Muslims before it escalates into a dangerous catastrophe. PM Modi expressed his concern over the extremist violence in Rakhine and offered to fast track development projects in the troubles province of Rakhine.

At a time when State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has come under pressure over the Rohingya crisis, PM Modi’s strong stand on the issue and support of the Myanmar government, resonated well with Myanmar. PM Modi’s government has itself taken a strong stand on the influx of about 40,000 Rohingyas over the years, threatening to deport them, as it views them as a big security threat.

The recent crisis, triggered by coordinated attacks by Rohingya militants on 25-26 August, under a recently formed Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (now designated as “terrorists”) against government and security outposts in northern Rakhine, left 110 dead, including militants, security personnel and civilians. In response, state security forces launched ‘clearance operations’ to neutralise militants and recapture seized weapons and territory. If reports are to be believed, around 270,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh, triggering a massive humanitarian crisis in the Subcontinent.

The international community has come down heavily on the Myanmar government, in what they view as ‘ethical cleansing’ and crimes against humanity. Aung San Suu Kyi has defended her handling of the crisis and said that those attacked were Jihadists and that the military action was necessary to ensure security against the extremist elements.

PM Modi reiterated India’s commitment to stand by Myanmar’s efforts to find long-lasting peace and tackling the latest surge of violence.

The transition of Myanmar into a democratic state with a democratically elected government provides an ideal opportunity to India to engage with its neighbour in a mutually beneficial arrangement. It provides fresh impetus to PM Modi’s ‘Act East’ Policy and offers a counter-narrative to China’s increasingly bullish position in the Subcontinent. Myanmar, too, stands to gain immensely through this partnership, based on the spirit of cooperation, trust and rooted in shared historical, cultural, religious and ethnic ties. The visit by PM Modi has only reaffirmed this and it bodes well for the future of India-Myanmar relations.

By Arun Arora