New Delhi. Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a landmark visit to New Delhi on Wednesday, after warning India not to get carried away by the startling reforms across its border.
Suu Kyi, who was a student in New Delhi in the 1960s where her mother served as an ambassador, is paying her first visit to India in 25 years — most of which were spent under military house arrest.
Her invitation is an attempt by Singh’s government to repair a damaged relationship with Suu Kyi, who was finally freed by the junta in 2010 and led her party to a landslide victory in parliamentary by-elections in April.
New Delhi was once one of her staunchest supporters, but changed tack and sought engagement with the junta in the mid-1990s — a move that the Nobel peace prize winner has acknowledged “saddened” her.
Singh himself visited Myanmar in May to try to strengthen trade links and counter the influence of regional rival China. The two governments signed 12 agreements covering an array of issues including security, trade and transport.
India shares a 1,643-kilometer border with its northeastern neighbor Myanmar and the two former British colonies have a long-shared history.
Suu Kyi’s father General Aung San — regarded as Myanmar’s independence hero — was a personal friend of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. His daughter is to deliver the prestigious Nehru memorial lecture later on Wednesday.
After meeting Suu Kyi in May and inviting her to visit, Singh said India was “very proud of our long-standing association with her and members of the family.”
Suu Kyi’s release, last year’s end to military rule and the prospect of nationwide elections in 2015 have enabled Myanmar to shed its pariah status in the West and US President Barack Obama is due to visit next week.
Myanmar’s military-backed President Thein Sein has vowed to put the economy at the center of a new wave of reforms following the dramatic political changes.
But in an eve of visit interview with The Hindu newspaper, Suu Kyi cautioned India against being overly optimistic.
“It’s [got] to be able to take a good hard look at what is really happening,” she told the Indian daily.
“Not to be over-optimistic, at the same time to be encouraging of what needs to be encouraged; because I think too much optimism doesn’t help because then you ignore what is going wrong, and if you ignore what is not right, then from not right it becomes wrong.”
Suu Kyi acknowledged that businesses were keen to tap the opportunities across India’s eastern border in competition with Chinese counterparts, but added that “investment has to be done in the right way.”
During the four-day trip, Suu Kyi is also due to visit parliament and inspect rural development projects.
On Friday she will visit the Lady Shri Ram college in New Delhi, where she graduated with a degree in politics.
Suu Kyi last visited India in 1987 when she traveled to Simla to join her husband Michael Aris, who was pursuing Himalayan studies at an institute in the picturesque hill station.