Friday, December 14, 2012

'Engaged with junta without diluting commitment to Suu Kyi'

14 December 2012
Press Trust of India
NAY PYI TAW, 14 DEC: Ahead of his meeting with pro-democracy icon Aung Sang Suu Kyi, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid today justified India's engagement with Myanmar's military junta, saying it was important for strategic and security reasons but asserted it was done without “diluting our commitment to her”.

The minister also sought to draw a parallel with South African leader Nelson Mandela, who is known for his anti-apartheid struggle, and her.

“Of course, it's true that what she might have expected as a prisoner of conscience and what we were able to do as part of the comity nations may have had a degree of divergence,” Mr Khurshid, who is here on his first official bilateral visit, said.

The minister was responding to a query on 67-year-old Mrs Suu Kyi's remarks, made during her visit to India, expressing disappointment over how New Delhi drew close to the military junta after initially supporting the democracy movement in her country.

“We deal with governments that are constituted governments, established governments of the day. You don't always have the same governing systems you prefer but you have to take things as they are while you are dealing with sovereign governments.

“We have to give respect to their wishes, their concerns, which is what we did without, we believe, diluting our commitment to her,” he said.

Mr Khurshid will meet with Suu Kyi tomorrow.

The minister asserted that “at significant moments we made it clear how important she was both to Myanmar as well as to world. If we haven't done as much as she thought as we should have done, that happens in many parts of the world because you balance the ground reality with the aspirations and principles and that's the way the real world works.

“If she looks at the balance sheet, she will find that we did stand by her and that's very very important.”

He also referred to the fact that the opposition leader was engaging with the government there and said he sees “shades of Nelson Mandela”, who dealt with the same people who oppressed him and kept him under arrest.

“I think, I see shades of that in her strategy and in a manner in which she is working with the government today, obviously aspiring for much greater change ~ not being happy with the change that has taken place already. Nevertheless, she is engaging with them and that's exactly what we did.

“Myanmar was important to us for strategic reasons, we had major concerns with insurgent groups on the border and some of them obviously looking for safe havens across the border,” he said.