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India's PM praises the courage of Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi meets Indian leaders as countries start to build bridges.

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi sends a floral tribute on the birth anniversary of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru at his memorial in New Delhi.
Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi sends a floral tribute on the birth anniversary of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru at his memorial in New Delhi.

NEW DELHI // India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, yesterday said he admired the "indomitable courage" of Myanmar's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The praise came as he and the foreign secretary, Ranjan Mathai, met her to discuss how to repair the relationship between the two countries.

Ms Suu Kyi is on a six-day visit to India, her first significant visit to the country since the 1960s, when she was a student at Lady Shri Ram College, one of New Delhi's top institutions for women. She will visit her alma mater tomorrow.

Her mother, Khin Kyi, was also the Burmese envoy to the India during the 1960s, and India became one of Ms Suu Kyi's strongest supporters after she returned to Burma, the former name of Myanmar, in 1988.

Ms Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in 1990 and spent more than 15 years in detention.

By the mid-90s, however, India had changed tack and built relations with the ruling military junta.

India hopes that improving relations with Myanmar will boost trade and help counter the rising influence of China in the region.

Mr Singh had invited Ms Suu Kyi to New Delhi when he visited Myanmar in May.

"Our good wishes are with you, as indeed with your struggle for democracy," said Mr Singh. "We admire you for the indomitable courage you have shown."

In an interview published on Tuesday in the Indian newspaper The Hindu, Ms Suu Kyi said she hoped her visit would bring India and Myanmar closer.

"I feel that perhaps in recent years we've grown apart as peoples, because India took a road which is different from ours, or rather we changed routes," she said. "I'd like to see a closer relationship between our two peoples."

India shares a 1,640 kilometre border with Myanmar, and the two former British colonies have a long shared history.

General Aung San, Ms Suu Kyi's father, is regarded as Myanmar's independence hero. He was a friend of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, laid a wreath at Nehru's memorial in Delhi yesterday morning and delivered a lecture in his honour last night.

Today, she is due to meet India's vice president, Hamid Ansari, the foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, and the speaker of parliament, Meira Kumar.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and IANS