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Insights Daily Current Events, January 18, 2014

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January 18, 2014

NATIONAL & SOCIAL ISSUES

India registered an increase of five years in life expectancy rate 

  • India registered an increase of five years in the average life expectancy rate. The average life expectancy rate increased from 63.9 years in 2004 to 69.6 years in 2014.
  • The increase in the life expectancy was the result of consistent investments in public health sector by the government.
  • Life expectancy is defined as the average number of years a person born in a given country would live if mortality rates at each age were to remain constant in the future.
  • As per the census of 2011, the life expectancy in India was 65.48 years as compared to the global average life expectancy of 67.88 years.
  • Japan, Switzerland, San Marino are the countries with highest average life expectancy of 83 years.
  • On the other hand, poor countries of Africa like Somalia, Lesotho have an average life expectancy of 50 years with Sierra Leone having the least life expectancy at 47 years.
  • Although India has improved its performance but it still has a life expectancy rate which is relatively very low in South Asia.
  •  For instance, Bhutan has the life expectancy of 65.79 years while Pakistan has managed to improve its overall Life expectancy to 67 years.
  • China’s life expectancy rate is 72.90 years, Bangladesh has life expectancy of 70 years and Sri Lanka has life expectancy of 75 years.
  • Among the BRICS countries also India fares badly. For instance, Brazil’s life expectancy rate stands at 74 years, Russia’s life expectancy is 69 years and South Africa has a poor life expectancy of 58 years.

 

INTERNATIONAL

India and Myanmar:

Myanmar – India’s Entry Ticket Towards the ASEAN

 India and Myanmar share special ties of culture, language, trade and tradition rooted in historical linkages through India’s North East. India sees a direct relationship between peace and stability across the borders with Myanmar with development and prosperity of its own North Eastern region. Over the past year, India’s close and multifaceted relationship with Myanmar has been further strengthened through an exchange of visits at the highest level.

The State visit of the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to Myanmar in May 2012, the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister after a gap of 25 years, was a major milestone in bilateral relations. During the visit, 12 Agreements and MoUs were signed, including on the US$ 500 million Line of Credit; Air Service Agreement; border area development.

Earlier, the President of Myanmar, U Thein Sein, had paid a State visit to India in October 2011. India is working closely with Myanmar on various infrastructure development and cooperation projects, including in the field of roads, waterways, power, health, education and industrial training, telecommunications, and others.

Myanmar is also central to India’s Look East Policy. Being the only ASEAN Country with which India shares a land boundary, Myanmar is India’s gateway to the larger ASEAN Community. India is actively engaged with Myanmar in improving cross border connectivity and expects that the direct and smooth road connectivity to South East Asia through Myanmar will be materialized by the end of this decade greatly facilitating trade, tourism and travel in the region.

The significant political and economic reforms instituted by the Government of Myanmar over the past year have led to an increased international interest in Myanmar. India remains committed to extending all possible assistance and support to the process of national reconciliation and the further strengthening of democracy in Myanmar.

Further, it is pertinent to mention that there are no contentious issues looming over India-Myanmar bilateral channels. A number of agreements for enhancing bilateral cooperation have been signed between the two countries. Institutional mechanisms for facilitating regular dialogue on a range of issues of bilateral interest have also been established. Indian Consulate General in Mandalay was re-opened in 2002 and the Consulate General of Myanmar was set up in Kolkata. India has been responsive to the needs of friendly people of Myanmar and has been providing relief materials and assistance.

The recent exchanges of visits between both countries at political and other levels had imparted a new momentum to the bilateral relationship.

Recent Visit: October 2013

 Gen. Bikram Singh is on a two-day official visit to Myanmar. President Thein and Gen. Singh held discussions on the two countries’ bilateral friendship forged through successive governments, implementation of the agreements signed during the latest visits of the Myanmar president and Indian prime minister to each other’s country and India’s assistance to Myanmar’s human resource development.

They also touched on cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces, India’s offer of scholarships for Myanmar trainees, its assistance for modernising Myanmar’s armed forces, Myanmar’s help in cracking down on Indian rebels on the Indian border, patrolling for border security and signing of an agreement on cooperation in boundary affairs.

Gen. Singh’s visit to Myanmar came after Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s tour to the country in January this year.

Positive Aspects:

Major Indian Projects in Myanmar

Development cooperation is a key of our relationship and we have offered technical and financial assistance for projects in Myanmar, both in infrastructural and non- infrastructural areas.

These include:

1. A national centre of excellence- The Myanmar Institute of Information Technology (MIIT) being set   up at Mandalay;

2. An Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education (ACARE) along with a Rice Bio Park at Yezin Agriculture University Nay Pyi Taw.

Recognising the importance of connectivity, India in coordination with Myanmar is implementing the various connectivity projects:

  • Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project, building/upgrading 71 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo road; pledged to construct/upgrade the Kalewa-Yargyi section of the trilateral highway which envisages seamless connectivity between India, Myanmar and Thailand by 2016.
  • Government of India is also closely working with Government of Myanmar to implement the MOU on Border Area Development where India has granted an assistance of USD 5 Million each year for next five years. The first year project is under implementation and under which 21 schools, 17 health centres and 8 bridges are being built in Chin State and Naga self Administered Zone of Myanmar.
  • An India-Myanmar Industrial Training Centre has been set up by HMT(I) in Pakokku with the assistance of GOI, a second centre is being set up in Myingyan.
  • Myanmar-India Centre for English Language (MICELT), a Myanmar-India Entrepreneurship Development Centre (MIEDC) and an India-Myanmar Centre for Enhancement of IT Skills (IMCEITS) have been set up under GOI assistance and are running successfully. GOI has again decided to upgrade the IMCEITS with state of the art equipment.
  • GOI has also agreed to extend assistance in setting up a Language Laboratories and E-Resource Centre at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw.

Other projects include—

  • Restoration of the Ananda Temple in Bagan,
  • Upgradation of the Yangon Children’s Hospital, Sittwe General Hospital along with proposed upgradation of Monywa General Hospital.

Commercial and Economic Relations

 There has been steady expansion of bilateral trade from US$ 12.4 million in 1980-81 to US$ 1.92 million in 2012-13. India’s imports from Myanmar are dominated by agricultural items (beans, pulses and forest based products from 90% of our imports). India’s main exports to Myanmar are primary & semi-finished steel and pharmaceuticals.

India is the fourth largest trading partner of Myanmar aster Thailand, Singapore and China. The two countries have set a target of $3 billion by 2015.

 At the institutional level, an Agreement for setting up of a Joint Task Force between UMFCCI and CII was signed in 2004. A Bilateral Investment Promotion Agreement (BIPA) and a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) were also signed in 2008.

India and Myanmar are both signatories to the India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, which was signed in August 2009.

Myanmar is also a beneficiary country under India’s Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme for LDCs. There has been regular interaction between CII, FICCI and other important chambers of commerce from India and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI). The Joint Trade Committee (JTC) chaired by the respective Commerce Ministers was set up in 2003 and has been effective in reviewing and setting policy objectives for bilateral trade between the two countries.

During the visit of Prime Minister to Myanmar, Joint Trade and Investment Forum (JTIF) chaired by prominent businessmen from both sides was set up. The 1st JTIF was held in Yangon in June 2013. Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles and Myanmar Minister of Commerce also attended and addressed the 1st JTIF.

Border Trade

India and Myanmar signed a border trade agreement in 1994 and have two operational border trade points: Moreh-Tamu and Zowkhatar –Rhi on the 1643 km long border.

A third border trade point is proposed to be opened at Avakhung- Pansat/Somrai.

The border trade between India and Myanmar had a quantum jump during the year 2012-13 touching US$ 36.2 million from US$ 15.4 million. First meeting of the India-Myanmar Border Trade Committee was held in Moreh (Manipur) on November 8, 2012. The meeting reviewed the current status of border trade and discussed border trade points/LCSs along with the proposed expansion of items under border trade.

Trade Fair & Market Promotion

 Recent trade promotion events include visit of the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) delegation to Myanmar (26-31 August 2012), Federation of Indian Export Organizations (FIEO) (3-7September 2012) for ‘India Show’, EEPC delegation (13-19 January 2013), Bengal Chambers of Commerce (18-22 February 2013), Indian Chamber of Commerce and FICCI (4-9 March 2013) and Calcutta Chamber of

Commerce (4-7 April 2013). India-Myanmar Business and Investment Conclave in Monywa in May 2013. Marker events including Business seminar and b-2-b meetings were organized in Yangon and Sittwe during the visit of Indian Naval Training Ship – Sudharshini from March 6-9, 2013.

Training programmes

 Myanmar is a beneficiary of training programmes under different schemes such as

  • Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, Technical Cooperation Scheme (TCS) of Colombo Plan and also various scholarships offered by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) like the General Cultural Scholarship Scheme (GCSS), Mekong Ganga Cultural Scholarship Scheme (MGCSS), Ayush Scholarship to BIMSTEC member countries.

A large number of participants from different Ministries of Myanmar Government attended various courses offered under the ITEC/TCS scholarships. In 2012-13 the slots under ITEC/TCS were doubled to 500 from 250, which has again been enhanced to 525 for this year because of the enthusiastic response from Myanmar.

The specialized training programme for Parliamentarians and Parliamentary secretariat were also organized where 42 MPs and 30 staff attended the training course. Myanmar diplomats have also been attending training courses at the Foreign Service Institute of India along with other foreign diplomats.

Cultural Exchange

 The cultural wing of the Mission has been organizing regular cultural activities besides having active Yoga & Bharatnatyam classes with dedicated instructors from India.

An International Conference on Buddhist Cultural Heritage was organized on the sidelines of which, Buddhist Cultural Heritage Photo Exhibition and Book on Buddhism was organized in Shwedagon Pagoda. The Sarnath Style Buddha Statue donated by GOI to people of Myanmar and installed at the Shwedagon Pagoda premises was also unveiled in Yangon in Decmeber 2012.

Other cultural events include a Carnatic Music Nite by Padmashri Sudha Ragunathan, book reading function by famous author, Dr. Amitav Ghosh, an Odissi dance performance by a leading troupe from India and local dances by Myanmar troupes in connection with the ASEAN-India Car Rally.

A night of India & Myanmar Dance was organized at National Theatre in collaboration with students of the Art and Culture University of Yangon. India is also working on the restoration/preservation of Ananda Temple in Bagan.

Indian Diaspora

 The origin of the Indian community in Myanmar is traced back to the mid-19th century with the advent of the British rule in Lower Burma in 1852. The two cities of the Myanmar namely Yangon and Mandalay had a dominating presence of Indians in various fields such as civil services, education, trade and commerce during the British rule. According to 1983 official census of Myanmar the number of Person of Indian origin (PIOs) in Myanmar is 428428. A large number of the Indian community (nearly 150,000) live in Bago (Zeyawaddy and Kuayktaga) and Tanintharyi Region and Mon State and are primarily engaged in farming. The NRI families in Myanmar mainly live in

urban/cities and are engaged in export import business or are employees of MNCs based in India, Singapore and Thailand.

Air links with India / Convenient Travel Routes

 1. Thai Airways flies daily to various cities in India via Bangkok;

2. Indian Airlines flies Kolkata-Yangon (to-and-fro) twice a week on Monday and Fridays.

Cooperation between India and Myanmar in the regional/sub-regional context

 ASEAN:

Myanmar became a member of ASEAN in July 1997. As the only ASEAN country which shares a land border with India, Myanmar is a bridge between India and ASEAN. A few proposals for cooperation have been implemented and some are under discussions with Myanmar within the framework of ASEAN’s IAI programme.

BIMSTEC:

Myanmar became a member of BIMSTEC in December 1997. Myanmar is a signatory to the BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement. Myanmar is the lead country for the energy sector. Myanmar trades mostly with Thailand and India in the BIMSTEC region. Myanmar’s major exports to India are agricultural products like beans, pulses and maize and forest products such as teak and hardwoods. Its imports from India include chemical products, pharmaceuticals, electrical appliances and transport equipment. The 13th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting was held in Myanmar in January 2011. The 3rd

BIMSTEC Summit meeting is expected to be held in Myanmar during the year.

Mekong Ganga Cooperation:

Myanmar is a member of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) since its inception in November 2000. MGC is an initiative by six countries – India and five ASEAN countries namely, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – for cooperation in the fields of tourism, education, culture, transport and communication. The chairmanship of MGC is assumed by member countries in alphabetical order.

SAARC:

Myanmar was given the status of observer in SAARC in August 2008.

Negative Aspects

  1. India and Myanmar trade relations have improved at an appreciable rate, but still China is its largest trading partner and also the potential source of foreign Investments.
  2. Myanmar has raised its voice against the large scale poppy cultivation by the Manipuri People in Myanmar and hope that this issue of environmental harm would be resolved very early.
  3. Recently, Myanmar troops had attempted to construct a base camp next to Holenphai village near Moreh but they were persuaded not to do so until a joint survey between the two is conducted. India has asked Myanmar to setup a Joint Border Working Group(JBWG) to address the issue of demarcation of border, extends to over 1,600 km, between, the two countries. As per the understanding, there cannot be any construction within 10 metres from the boundary.

Future Potential and Prospects:

1. Geopolitically, Myanmar is important for India in order to counter Chinese presence in South East Asia by creating its own sphere of economic zones. As, India’s Investment in Myanmar is around $275 million. India should use this opportunity to earn the confidence of the people as well as the government of Myanmar.

2. The border trade and investment facilitation as well as cooperation in services and technology must be addressed with greater economic potential. Both countries should also evolve measures to capture the attention of private players.

3. It is believed that tax free markets will come up along the borders. For this, a preliminary agreement has been inked between Chin State of Myanmar and the Govt. of India to open such markets, which will allow merchants to trade around 40 commodities.