A 31-member delegation comprising Myanmar (Burma) government officials, leaders of different chambers (of commerce) and traders came to India primarily for exploring trade possibilities with the region.
However, the visit of a Myanmarese delegation to the Northeast emerged as a major opening for not only bilateral trade but also people-to-people contacts between India and Myanmar.
The weeklong visit of the delegates started on February 28. It was the first business delegation from the military-ruled country to visit the Northeast since India and Myanmar signed a trade agreement in January 1994. The agreement came into effect in April the following year.
The agreement initiated border trade facilities through two points namely Moreh-Tamu and Champhai-Rih. Meanwhile, both the governments set a target of $ 1 billion trade in 2006-07 while their bilateral trade in the FY2005-06 totalled $570 million.
?The lower level of trade at Moreh was prompted by many factors like lack of proper information about the market, currency problem in Myanmar and also deteriorating law and order situation in Manipur,? said an Indian trader based at Moreh. He was of course optimistic about the initiatives of Myanmar government in disseminating information and the measures taken by the Indian Commerce Ministry in recent past.
In his recent visit to Manipur, the Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh said that an integrated check post will be developed at Moreh to manage both cargo and passenger movement across the border. The project with a budget of Indian Rs 70 crore is expected to provide modern infrastructure facilities and better connectivity.
In Manipur, the Myanmarese delegates met a number of government officials and businessmen. With interactive sessions on priority, the team also visited to historically important places like Kangla fort, war cemeteries and Ima Keithel (women'smarket) in Imphal.
The team members had more sessions in Assam, where they interacted with local entrepreneurs and trade bodies in Guwahati. The team also visited the 14th International Guwahati Trade Fair, where some entrepreneurs from Myanmar participated. The trade fair (February 26- March 9), organised by the Industries and Trade Fair Association of Assam (ITFAA), was participated by a number of traders from Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan .
Earlier the team that included three government officials namely Thaung Kyaw, deputy director of directorate of border trade, Tha Ra, deputy general manager of Myanmar Economy Bank and Aung Min, director of life stock breeding had successful discussions with relevant people. The powerful students body of the Northeast, All Assam Students? Union with Asom Unnati Sabha representatives had a meeting with the delegation in Guwahati. Student leader Samujjal Bhattacharya welcomed the delegation to the Northeast and emphasised on development of sustainable trade relationship with Myanmar. He also urged the delegates to support the recent initiatives by different organisations in Assam to reopen the historic Stilwell road impressing upon their government in Nay Pyi Taw (new capital of Myanmar).
A trilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on March 4 among three trade bodies representing Assam, Manipur and Myanmar. With an aim to enhance the trade relation between the Northeast (in particular) and Myanmar that emphasises the increasing participation of the business communities, the agreement was inked by the ITFAA, the Indo-Myanmar Border Traders? Union of Manipur (IMBTU ) and the Union of Myanmar Border Trade Chamber of Commerce, Myanmar (UMBTCC).
ITFAA president Jatin Hazarika and secretary Rajeev Das, IMBTU president W Nabachandra Singh and secretary general Ph. Ibotombi Sharma and UMBTCC president Hla Maung and secretary Aye Ko signed the MoU.
?We have decided to work together in boosting bilateral trade between the Northeast (India) and Myanmar involving more entrepreneurs and concerning trade bodies,? said ITFAA secretary Rajeev Das, who is one of the signatories in the MoU. The members of the three trade bodies have decided to organise a meeting at Moreh to exchange views about ongoing border trades within the next three months, Shri Das added.