India and Myanmar signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) aimed at developing Myanmar’s Rakhine state. It was signed by Foreign secretary S Jaishankar and Myanmar’s deputy minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement U Soe Aung.
The MoU comes in backdrop of massive migration of Rohingya refugees from violence-wracked Rakhine to Bangladesh. Human rights monitors have accused Myanmar’s military of atrocities against Rohingyas. The minority Rohingya community does not enjoy citizenship in Myanmar. According to UN estimates, since August 2017 more than 6,00,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after incidents of violence and oppression in Rakhine State. India has maintained that this issue should be handled in humane manner, development activities should be initiated in Rakhine State and conditions should be created for safe and secure return of refugees to their homes.
This MoU is first government to government (G2G) agreement signed by Myanmar with a cooperation partner focussed on socio-economic development and livelihood initiatives in Rakhine State. It is intended to help Myanmar to achieve its objective of restoration of normalcy in Rakhine State and enable return of displaced persons. Under this MoU, India has proposed to take up projects to build prefabricated housing in Rakhine State to meet immediate needs of returning people and also in Chittagong in Bangladesh.
Significance of Rakhine state
Rakhine is critical to strategic objectives of India in the region. Kaladan multimodal project, India’s dream connectivity project in region, originates from restive state. In addition, number of ongoing friendship projects also includes Sittwe port (capital of Rakhine province) and road from Paletwa–Zorinpui.
Other key projects that are being built by India are Rhi-Tiddim road project, India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) Trilateral Highway road from Kalewa to Yargyi, project to build 69 bridges on Tamu–Kyigone–Kalewa road, Yamethin Police Training Centre and hospital projects.