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CWA # 71, 16 December 2018

South Asia Monthly Brief (Nov 2018)

  Mahesh Bhatta
Centre for South Asian Studies, Kathmandu

At the invitation of the Prime Minister K P Oli, Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, paid a visit to Nepal. Suu Kyi's visit to Nepal is the first in the capacity of state counselor since 2014 when she visited Kathmandu as then opposition leader. Suu Kyi's trip also followed that of President U Win Myint to Nepal in August this year on the occasion of the 4th Summit of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). Apart from official meetings, Suu Kyi also attended the Asia-Pacific summit held in Kathmandu.

Enhances bilateral cooperation

Suu Kyi's official visit to Nepal has enhanced bilateral cooperation between Myanmar and Nepal. During her visit, she met with President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. Witnessed by the two countries' leaders, a memorandum of understanding was signed, according to which Myanmar and Nepal agreed to promote sustainable development of bilateral cooperation of trade and investment and to take steps for promoting strategic cooperation in potential sectors such as tourism, agro-tourism, agriculture, livestock and transport.

Bilateral talks between Suu Kyi and the PM Oli called for promotion of existing friendly relations and cooperation, enhancing bilateral high-level visit, sharing experiences on democratic transition and peace process, cooperation in tourism, setting up of direct air link to promote pilgrimage tour in 2020 Visit Nepal Year. The two countries also agreed to establish a Joint Consultative Mechanism at the level of secretary. Suu Kyi extended an invitation to Prime Minister Oli to pay an official visit to Myanmar.

Suu Kyi stresses on bilateral trade relations and investment

During a visit to the Nepal Chamber Expo-2018 in Kathmandu Aung San Suu Kyi stressed the importance of trade between the two countries and talked about the opportunity of investing and doing business in Myanmar. She openly discussed promoting bilateral relations and cooperation between Myanmar and Nepal, who share a long diplomatic history together. Suu Kyi said, “This Expo will serve as an excellent platform for enhancing awareness, creating networks among our business communities and promoting economic and trade relations between our two countries”.

As members of the BIMSTEC (the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), Myanmar and Nepal have been cooperating in the areas of commerce, investment, technology, tourism, human resource development, agriculture, fisheries, transport and communications, textiles and leather, among others. “Moreover, we have been working together in the context of the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme, which aims to promote regional prosperity, improve economic opportunities, and build a better quality of life for the people of the sub-region,” she added.

Bilateral trade between Myanmar and Nepal accounted for US$ 2.866 million. She also expressed delight for registration of Ten Nepalese Companies with the Myanmar Investment Commission as of March 2018. “Of course, there is a lot of room for further economic cooperation between our two countries. Understanding and friendship between our two countries have been steadfast for many decades. The similarities in culture, tradition and experiences will enable us to enhance people-to-people contact, which will subsequently bring not just our people but also our business interests,” said the State Counsellor.

Suu Kyi attended the controversial Asia Pacific Summit

Besides political meetings and attending the Nepal Chamber Expo-2018, which was organized with Myanmar as a partner country, Suu Kyi also attended the opening session of the Asia-Pacific Summit-2018 in Kathmandu. With the theme of "Addressing the Critical Challenges of Our Time: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values", the summit gathered over 1,500 participants from 45 countries or regions from Asia-Pacific including Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen as well as other heads of states and governments, lawmakers, eminent leaders, businessmen and leaders of civil society. The event was organized by the controversial South Korea-based Universal Peace Federation in support of the Government of Nepal.

Nepal should raise Rohingya issue with Suu Kyi: Human Rights groups

As Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi commences her visit, the human rights agencies in Nepal said that the government authority should draw her attention to ensure safe return of the Rohingya Muslim minorities and have a fair investigation into the alleged abuses.  Mohna Ansari, spokesperson for the National Human Rights Commission-Nepal, said the Nepali authorities should clearly talk to Suu Kyi for the safe return of the displaced people and fair investigation into the matter. Similarly, director at Amnesty International Nepal, Nirajan Thapaliya also said Nepali authorities should take up the issue with Suu Kyi.  He said, “Nepal should exert pressure on the Myanmar government through international collaboration for the safe return of the oppressed”.

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