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Suu Kyi's India visit shows regional geopolitical reality

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- On Nov. 13, Myanmar opposition leader and Member of Parliament Aung San Suu Kyi paid her first visit to India after almost 40 years.

The Indian media described her visit as “lighting up” India during Diwali.

Suu Kyi was in India to deliver the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture and meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, renewing the focus on burgeoning ties between the two neighbors.

The India visit in many ways holds the most significance for Suu Kyi, who spent her formative years in the country and studied and lived in Delhi. It was in Delhi where she had spent a considerable number of years as a student in the 1960s when her mother Daw Khin Kyi was the Myanmarese Ambassador to India.

An admirer of Rammohan Roy, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatama Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, she is said to have an “openness to ideas and innovations from other cultures,” according to biographer Peter Popham.

She met with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Nov. 14 and urged the people of India to help her country secure democracy. At the same time she expressed her sadness that India, which supported her movement for democracy in Myanmar after the military crackdown in 1988, changed its policy and sought engagement in the 1990s with the military rulers. She added: “I was saddened to feel that India had drawn away from us during our very difficult days.”

Observers say that India insisted it had to follow a pragmatic policy because of its concerns about China's strong influence on its neighbor, Myanmar. For example, Myanmar allowed China to develop roads and ports in areas bordering the Indian Ocean. Moreover the reported installation of a Chinese surveillance naval base in one of Myanmar's islands opposite the Andaman Islands of India (Cocos Islands) has heightened India's security concerns.

During the trip, she reportedly discussed the development of Myanmar, which has just exited decades of political and economic isolation. She is particularly interested in learning from the Indian experience in agriculture, health, science and technology.

Suu Kyi's India visit is her fourth foreign visit in as many months. She first visited Thailand, then Europe, where she received the Nobel Peace Prize, and the U.S. These visits presented three different political underpinnings in the context of Myanmar's reform process.

In Thailand, Suu Kyi wore a cloak of reservation, neither sure nor certain of the nature of her country's reform process. This had resulted in some misunderstanding between her and the generals in power back home.

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