- Special Pages
Chairperson of the National League for Democracy of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, walks with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai on her arrival at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, yesterday.
NEW DELHI: Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged India not to be over-optimistic about political changes in her homeland, as she began her first visit to New Delhi for a quarter of a century yesterday.
Suu Kyi, who was a student in the city where her mother served as an ambassador, spoke in a newspaper interview of her sadness at the Indian government’s ties with Myanmar’s former junta, which kept her under house arrest for 15 out of 22 years before her release in 2010.
Her invitation to India is an attempt by its government to rebuild the relationship with Suu Kyi. New Delhi was once one of her staunchest supporters, but changed tack and sought engagement with the junta in the mid-1990s.
Suu Kyi said she had been saddened by India’s decision to engage with the junta which was treated as a pariah by the West, although not surprised.
“I think rather than disappointment, sad is the word I would use because I have a personal attachment to India... because of the closeness that existed between the countries,” she told The Hindu.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited neighbouring Myanmar in May to try to strengthen trade links and counter the influence of regional rival China.
The two governments signed 12 agreements covering an array of issues including security, development of border areas, trade and transport links.
But Suu Kyi said India should not get carried away by recent developments in Myanmar, which is now run by a quasi-civilian regime and where elections are due in 2015.
“It’s (got) to be able to take a good hard look at what is really happening,” she said.
“Not to be over-optimistic, at the same time to be encouraging of what needs to be encouraged; because I think too much optimism doesn’t help because then you ignore what is going wrong, and if you ignore what is not right, then from not right it becomes wrong.” Suu Kyi acknowledged that businesses were keen to tap the opportunities across India’s eastern border in competition with Chinese counterparts but added that “investment has to be done in the right way”.
“And also we have to keep in mind that we are just at the beginning of the road to democracy, and as I keep saying, it’s a road we have to build for ourselves. It’s not there ready and waiting,” she said.
Suu Kyi landed in Delhi yesterday to a reception normally reserved for heads of state or government. She arrived on Diwali, 25 years after she had celebrated the festival as a fellow at Shimla’s Indian Institute of Advanced Study. The Nobel laureate, now the main opposition leader in Myanmar’s parliament, is on a six-day visit, officially to deliver the Nehru Memorial lecture today. She had been invited by Sonia Gandhi and this was conveyed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he visited Myanmar in May.
Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, who does not normally receive foreign dignitaries at the airport, was there when Suu Kyi’s Air India flight from Bangkok landed at noon.
Today, Suu Kyi will pay tributes at the samadhis of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the former a mandatory stopover for visiting heads of state or government. She will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, likely to be followed by lunch at his residence, besides meeting Vice President Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid too will host her to dinner.
On Friday she will visit the Lady Shri Ram college in New Delhi, from which she graduated with a degree in politics.
Suu Kyi last visited India in 1987 when she travelled to Simla to join her husband Michael Aris, who was pursuing Himalayan studies at an institute in the picturesque hill station.