NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh departed Sunday on a three-day visit to Myanmar that underscores India's quest for energy supplies and concerns about China's strong influence in the Southeast Asian country.
Singh said he hoped to focus on stronger trade and investment links, development of border areas and improving connectivity between India and Myanmar.
India remains "committed to a close, cooperative and mutually beneficial partnership with the government and people of Myanmar," Singh said in a statement before leaving for Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city.
The visit highlights India's search for energy supplies to fuel its economic boom and concerns about China's influence in Myanmar, where the elected — but military-backed — government is opening up its economy for investment and trade.
In recent years, India has nervously watched Beijing's domination of Myanmar's oil and gas exploration projects. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers are in Myanmar working on infrastructure and other projects.
Indian officials, however, are loath to acknowledge that India's Myanmar policy is being driven by China's inroads there.
India wants to "secure a stronger and mutually beneficial relationship with a neighboring country that is integral to India's Look East policy," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters Friday.
India has adopted a "Look East" policy of engaging with southeast and east Asia, reaching out and deepening bilateral ties with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia among others in the region.
Singh's visit will be the first in 25 years by an Indian prime minister, although the two countries share a 1,600-kilometer (1,000-mile) land border, as well as a maritime border in the Bay of Bengal.
Myanmar, which was once known as Burma, had been an international pariah for decades under a military junta that quashed any hopes of democratic reform. A 2010 election, though, has lead to at least some reforms and a gradual opening up to the rest of the world. (AP/aph)