India supports return of democracy in Myanmar: Jaishankar to Myanmarese counterpart

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New Delhi, Jul 11 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday told his Myanmarese counterpart U Than Shwe that India supports the return of democracy in Myanmar even as he strongly pressed for the early return of Indians "unlawfully" detained by gangs involved in cyber scams in Myawaddy town.

At a meeting with U Than Shwe, Jaishankar also raised the issue of flow of illegal narcotics, arms trade and activities of insurgent groups along the Indo-Myanmar border.

The talks took place on the sidelines of a retreat session of the foreign ministers of member nations of BIMSTEC grouping in Delhi.

"Met with DPM and FM U Than Swe of Myanmar on the sidelines of BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers' Retreat. Shared our concerns regarding border stability and flow of displaced persons," Jaishankar said on 'X'.

"Also spoke about issues of illegal narcotics and arms trade and activities of insurgent groups. Pressed strongly for the early return of Indians unlawfully detained by cyber scam gangs," he said.

"India supports the return to democracy in Myanmar and engages all stakeholders in that regard," the external affairs minister added.

Myanmar has been witnessing widespread violent protests demanding restoration of democracy since the military seized power in a coup on February 1, 2021.

Jaishankar met Than Shwe, also Myanmar's deputy prime minister, last month as well when he transited through Delhi while returning to Myanmar from a foreign trip.

Several parts of Myanmar have been witnessing intense fighting between the military junta and resistance forces. The resistance forces have already captured several towns.

The anti-junta forces seized control of several military bases and a command centre at Myawaddy in April.

India has been concerned over fake job scams in Myanmar as well.

Around five weeks back, the Indian embassy in Myanmar called upon Indian nationals looking for jobs in that country to be careful so that they are not lured into fake or illegal employment.

In an advisory, the embassy said an international crime syndicate is active in the Myawaddy region on Myanmar-Thailand border and urged Indians to exercise caution before taking up job offers in the region.

It is learnt that around 100 Indians are trapped in Myawaddy at present after they fell victim of job scams.

Separately, the foreign ministers of India, Thailand and Myanmar also held a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the retreat.

Besides India, the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) comprises Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.

The challenges arising out of instability in Myanmar figured in the trilateral meeting. Like India, Thailand also shares a border with Myanmar.

"Held trilateral meeting with my counterparts Thailand FM @AmbPoohMaris and Myanmar DPM & FM U Than Swe. Our discussions focused on the connectivity projects, so crucial for the future of BIMSTEC," Jaishankar posted on 'X'.

"Also exchanged views on border stability and humanitarian assistance. Countering transnational crimes including cyber, narcotics and illegal arms is a shared priority of all three nations. We will continue to cooperate in that regard," he said.

The resistance forces in Myanmar have already captured many key trading points along the borders with India, China and Bangladesh.

Rakhine state and many other regions have reported severe fighting between armed ethnic groups and the Myanmarese military since October last year.

The hostilities between the two sides saw a rapid spike since November in several key Myanmarese towns and regions near the border with India as well fuelling concerns in New Delhi over the possible ramifications for security of Manipur and Mizoram.

Myanmar is one of India's strategic neighbours and it shares a 1,640 kilometre-long border with a number of northeastern states including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.

In view of the violence and instability in border areas of Myanmar, Union Home Minister Amit Shah in January announced a plan to fence the border. PTI MPB KVK KVK

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