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Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minister, visits Myanmar

Singh's trip is the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Myanmar in 25 years.

Manmohan singh myanmarEnlarge
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presenting his United Progressive Alliance government's annual report card at a function in New Delhi on May 22, 2012. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Myanmar today for a three-day visit, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. It’s the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Myanmar in 25 years.

Business ties between the neighboring countries have been weak since the Myanmar military nationalized Indian businesses and expelled hundreds of thousands of ethnic Indians after taking over in 1962, Reuters reported.

But in the past year, Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein’s government has taken steps to end military rule, and US and European sanctions have been eased, opening up the possibility of a better climate for business and a new relationship with India, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

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Myanmar's government estimates two-way trade with India will nearly double in two years to $2 billion, according to Myanmar's Ministry of Commerce, Reuters reported.

"Stronger trade and investment links, development of border areas, improving connectivity between our two countries and building capacity and human resources are areas that I hope to focus on during my visit," Singh said in a statement released before his arrival in the capital Naypyitaw on Sunday evening, Reuters reported.

In Sept. 2010, Indian conglomerate Essar Group began building a new port in the Myanmar provincial capital of Sittwe, part of a new $214-million river and road network that will connect India's landlocked northeast to Myanmar, Reuters reported. India’s Tata Motors Ltd. and tractor-maker Escorts Ltd. are also interested in expanding manufacturing operations in Myanmar.

An Indian Foreign Ministry official told Bloomberg Businessweek that, during his visit, Singh plans to relax terms on a $500 million line of credit for Myanmar, announce a new bus service between India’s northeast and Mandalay and preside over the opening of branches of Indian banks.

India has not been as aggressive as other nations in reconnecting with Myanmar, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. The country ranked 13th last year in investments in Myanmar, spending $189 million pledged on five projects, according to data compiled by IHS Global Insight.

“There is a huge gold rush going on in Myanmar right now and everyone is jockeying for position,” Rajiv Biswas, chief economist in Singapore at IHS, told Bloomberg Businessweek. “India is being left behind. They are not as aggressive in their economic diplomacy as countries like China and South Korea.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120527/manmohan-singh-india-prime-minister-visits-myanmar