New Delhi, Oct 1 (PTI) India and Myanmar are working towards operationalising the Sittwe Port by the first quarter of next year, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla said on Thursday while emphasising on New Delhi's resolve to further expand ties with the neighbouring country.
At a virtual meeting of the India-Myanmar foreign office consultations, Shringla also said that the tendering process for 69 bridges proposed under the ambitious India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway will begin soon.
'Despite the challenges caused by the COVID pandemic, we are working towards operationalising the Sittwe Port by the first quarter of next year. With respect to the 69 bridges on the trilateral highway, I am happy to inform you that we will soon be moving forward with the tendering process,' he said.
Sittwe Port is part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project which is being viewed as India's gateway to Southeast Asia. The port will connect India's landlocked northeastern region with the Bay of Bengal through Mizoram.
In his remarks, Shringla also talked about the 'robust' security cooperation between the two countries.
'We have remained sensitive to each other's security concerns. Myanmar's handing over of 22 Indian insurgents has been deeply appreciated by the government of India and sends a strong message of deterrence to inimical elements on both sides,' he said.
'In view of our special partnership, we would request for an early conclusion of the extradition treaty, mutual legal assistance treaty on civil and commercial matters and agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons,' he added.
In the meeting, the two sides carried out a comprehensive review of their multi-faceted relationship that is underpinned by deepening cooperation in areas of trade and investment, power, energy and healthcare.
The two sides also held extensive discussions on ways to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.
The Indian delegation at the meeting was led by Shringla while the Myanmarese team was headed by Permanent Secretary U Soe Han.
Myanmar is one of India's strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.
In the talks, the MEA said the foreign secretary reiterated the priority India attaches to its partnership with Myanmar in accordance with its 'Neighborhood First' and 'Act East' policies.
'He stated that India remained committed to enhancing its multifaceted cooperation with Myanmar and also to explore new avenues of cooperation,' it said in a statement.
The MEA said both sides reviewed the entire expanse of ties including cooperation in regional and multilateral fora.
'Both sides reviewed the entire gamut of relations, including border cooperation and upgradation of border infrastructure, status of India's ongoing development projects in Myanmar, trade and investment ties, power and energy cooperation, consular matters and cultural cooperation,' the MEA added.
The cooperation in cultural spheres included the ongoing restoration work on pagodas in Bagan which were damaged by earthquake.
It was noted that the next joint trade committee ministerial meeting, to be held on October 20, will be useful in further strengthening bilateral trade and investment relations, the MEA said.
'Both sides also held extensive discussions on the challenges posed by COVID-19 and ways to mitigate its impact, including through vaccine development, supply of medicines, equipment and technology and capacity building,' it said.
The MEA said Permanent Secretary Han reaffirmed Myanmar's commitment to further strengthen its time tested partnership with India for the mutual benefit of the two countries.
He also expressed appreciation for the COVID-19 related development assistance extended by India to Myanmar.
'He thanked India for providing debt service relief under the G-20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative, for the period May 1 to December 31,' the MEA said. PTI MPB ZMN