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Democracy More Important Than Commerce, Suu Kyi Tells India

New Delhi, Dec 8 :  Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi wants India to play a "more active" role in democratisation of her country and to "engage more" with her opposition party.65-year-old Suu Kyi
PTI December 09, 2010 12:01 IST
New Delhi, Dec 8 :  Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi wants India to play a "more active" role in democratisation of her country and to "engage more" with her opposition party.

65-year-old Suu Kyi in an interview to PTI also said that India must live up to the reputation of being the biggest democracy in the world and not be dictated by its commercial interests in Myanmar.

Commenting on India's growing economic-driven engagement with the military regime, the opposition leader said she was not against India's engagement with Than Shwe's ruling military regime but wanted India to play an active role in democratisation of Myanmar and have parleys with her National league for Democracy party.

"We would like India to play a more active role in trying to help in the process of democratisation of Burma and I would like the Indian government to engage more with us... who are working more with democracy," the Nobel peace laureate said in the interview on phone from Yangon.

Suu Kyi India's foreign policy towards her country was dictated by it's "commercial side" and urged the world's largest democracy to live up to its reputation by engaging with her pro-democratic party.

"India's role in previous decades has been aided firmly by its reputation as the biggest democracy and it has taken pride in this, but, perhaps, more attention has turned towards the commercial side," she said.

Suu Kyi said she expected the Indian government "to look beyond this commercial kind of view when it comes to Myanmar."

Suu Kyi, who lived in India in the 1980s, was released in Yangon on November 13 after spending more than seven consecutive years in detention.

Once a strong supporter of Suu Kyi, India began engaging the Myanmar's military ruler in the mid-1990s as security, energy and strategic needs appeared to override concerns over democracy and human rights.

In July this year, India welcomed Myanmar's reclusive military leader General Than Shwe for a state visit and offered a grant of  $ 60 million  to build a road connecting Myanmar with Mizoram and pledged $ 10 million  for the purchase of modern agricultural equipment.

US President Barack Obama, during his trip to New Delhi in November, criticised India for failing to condemn human rights abuses in Myanmar but India justified its policy as being governed by "strategic interest" and "political compulsion" in the region.

The daughter of Myanmar's assassinated reforms hero General Aung San was released less than a week after the first election in 20 years, dismissed by many as a sham for cementing the military regime's grip on power.

Suu Kyi was critical of the recent election process in Myanmar conducted by the military regime and stated that "she was disillusioned over the form of government."

"General Thang shwe did not contest elections. So, he has not been elected as a leader. Elections have much to be desired in Myanmar. The most optimistic people have said that the election process was deeply flawed and there are many many questions on the outcome of the elections".

Underscoring the importance of the military junta holding a dialogue with her party, she said, "Once they start a dialogue, we can exchange views and discuss ahead."

Suu Kyi, who became the torch bearer of Myanmar's democratic struggle in 1988 and has been forcefully confined to her estate several times since then, added that freedom had a different meaning to her.

"Being released and being free are two different things. We still have many political prisoners who have to be freed and there are too many restrictions on our people. All this has to change before saying that yes, we are free," She said.

One of the tasks she has been fervently involved in since her release has been to expand the network of her party, declared illegal, and get on the dialogue table with other pro-freedom groups in Myanmar.

"First of all, we are trying to expand the network of our party and for that we need to also secure the freedom of numerous other political prisoners. We will need to work with other pro-freedom groups too. What I see around me is a lot of suffering among the people of Myanmar," she said outlining her action plan.

With Myanmar having no other pro-democratic face but Suu Kyi's for over two decades, she indicated that the next in command would be someone from within the party but clearly ruled out that her son Kim Aris, 33, would follow her footsteps. PTI