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India, China to Strengthen Myanmar's IT Capability

India and China have been competing with each other not only in helping Myanmar’s military junta in the exploitation of its vast gas reserves in the Arakan area, but also in strengthening its IT capability. The Junta, which is keen to develop an IT capability, which will not be dependent on Western companies and which it can strictly control without letting it be exploited by pro-democracy elements, has sought the help of India and China. Both have responded positively.

2. On December 12,2007, during the visit of U Kyaw Thu, Myanmar’s Deputy Foreign Minister, to New Delhi, India and Myanmar were reported to have signed a Memorandum of Understandg (MOU) under which India will help Myanmar to establish an India-Myanmar Centre for Enhancement of Information Technology Skills (IMCEITS) in Yangon (Rangoon).

3. On December 14,2007, the Junta inaugurated at a place near Pyin Oo Lwin town in the Mandalay area, Myanmar’s second IT park called the Yadanabon Cyber City. Myanmar’s first IT park, which is called the Myanmar Information and Communication Technology (MICT) Park, is located in Yangon.

4. To start with, the Yadanabon Cyber City has a cross border fiber ink from China, which is already functional. The Junta is reportedly proposing to have a similar link from India and Thailand. Initially, the Cyber City will focus on the production of software, but will ultimately undertake the production of hardware too. The Junta is hoping to get the co-operation of Indian software companies for developing its software capability.

5. In the meanwhile, reports emanating from Washington DC indicate that President George Bush is likely to drop plans for an US-ASEAN summit in his Texan ranch.During the summit conference of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum (APEC) at Sydney in September,2007, Mr.Bush was reported to have invited the leaders of the ASEAN countries to his ranch for a summit to discuss US-ASEAN relations. The US is since reported to have indicated to the ASEAN countries that in view of the recent brutal suppression of an agitation by students and monks in Myanmar by the Junta in August-September,2007, the US may have difficulty in organising this summit. Myanmar is a member of the ASEAN and the US would find it difficult to invite Myanmar at any level. (18-12-07)

(The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies . )

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