Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will soon visit neighbouring Myanmar, an official in Delhi said on Monday, as pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi claimed victory in landmark elections.
Singh’s visit will be the first by an Indian premier in 25 years to the Southeast Asian country with which India has steadily built relations over the last decade as a counter to China’s growing regional influence.
Suu Kyi supporters celebrated in Myanmar after her National League for Democracy (NLD) party declared that she had secured a seat in parliament in Sunday’s by-elections.
The veteran activist’s election, if confirmed, would mark the latest dramatic change in the country formerly known as Burma after decades of outright military rule ended last year.
A government official in Delhi, who declined to be named, confirmed Singh would visit Myanmar shortly in response to local reports that a trip was scheduled next month. He gave no further details.
India’s engagement with the Myanmar junta drew international criticism, with US President Barack Obama chiding New Delhi during a visit to India in 2010 for not speaking out over human rights abuses in the country.
But India, which shares its remote north-eastern border with Myanmar, feels vindicated by recent signs of change.
The Myanmar government has surprised even its critics over the past year with a string of reforms such as releasing hundreds of political prisoners, but ethnic conflict and alleged rights abuses remain concerns for the West.