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Myanmar signs $84 mln loan deal with India

Myanmar has signed up for an $84 million loan from India, state media reported Wednesday, in a move signaling expanding ties between the two neighbors.

The agreement was finalized during a visit by senior Indian officials to discuss bilateral trade and electric power projects, the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported. The paper said $20 million agreed between Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and the Exim Bank of India would fund the building of an aluminium conductor factory while another $64 million would finance three 230KV power lines. The deals were signed in the reclusive nation’s new administrative capital Naypyidaw by Planning Minister Soe Tha and Indian Commerce Minister Shri Jairam Remesh.

India was until the mid-1990s a supporter of Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But it has since cultivated ties with the junta as it sees Myanmar as a key source of energy to power fast economic growth. India was one of the first countries to rush aid to Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis hit on May 2-3, leaving 134,000 people dead or missing by latest count. But the deal comes amid long-standing calls for international pressure on the junta-ruled nation to shift to democracy, and criticism of its handling of the post-cyclone crisis.

Myanmar and India share a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border. Bilateral trade between the two nations totaled $590 million in 2005-2006, according to the Indian foreign ministry. In April, the two sides signed an accord under which New Delhi would invest 130 million dollars in Myanmar’s Sittwe port on the Bay of Bengal, which will give India’s northeast access to a new trade route to Southeast Asia. Last year New Delhi also pledged to invest $150 million for gas exploration in Myanmar. (Economic Times)