Myanmar’s opposition leader and Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday and discussed a variety of issues, including the national reconciliation process under way in her country and the process of democratisation in this context.
At the half-hour meeting, Dr. Singh expressed his happiness in receiving Ms. Suu Kyi and appreciated the progress made by her and President Thien Sien.
Dr. Singh praised Ms. Suu Kyi for her “indomitable” courage and unwavering resolve for democracy in Myanmar. “Our good wishes are with you as indeed with your struggle for democracy. We admire you for the indomitable courage you have shown,” he told her.
At the meeting, which was held without the presence of aides, the leaders agreed for need to have greater cooperation between the parliaments and judiciaries of the two countries.
Giving details of the meeting, senior government officials said the Prime Minister and Ms. Suu Kyi also agreed that people-to-people relations were important.
Later in the day, delivering the Nehru Memorial Lecture on the 123rd birth anniversary of the former Prime Minister, Ms. Suu Kyi spoke about the influence of Indian leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the principles that guided India’s freedom struggle and how they inspired her as she continues to strive for a democratic Myanmar.
“These past few months have given me many opportunities to thank people, governments, and organisations for support to the democracy cause in Burma. Today I wish to thank you for the Jawaharlal Nehru memorial prize that was given to me in 1995 when I was released from the first term of my house arrest,” she began.
Dressed in a yellow and purple traditional Burmese dress with yellow flowers arranged in her hair, Ms. Suu Kyi said the thoughts and actions of leaders of the Indian independence movement inspired the movement in Burma and that their pro-democracy movement was firmly based on non-violence.
Reflecting on her memories of Jawaharlal Nehru, she said she remembered him more as a father figure to her parents and little as a statesman. “To my infant mind he was the kindly old man who provided my father two sets of uniforms, the smartest that he had,” she said, narrating the story of how her father Aung San had stayed with Nehru as his personal guest while on his way to London to negotiate Burmese independence.
Throughout her speech, Ms. Suu Kyi linked Nehru’s experiences to her own and reflected on the part of their lives that were spent as political prisoners.
Counting the milestones in her life, she recalled reaching Oxford for higher education the same year as Nehru died, being placed under house arrest for the first time the year of his birth centenary, grappling with the predilections, uncertainties and dilemmas the same way as he did when he was incarcerated.
Talking of her house arrest, the pro-democracy leader said among the ‘maps’ that used to see her through the years that headed into the unknown were Nehru’s autobiography and ‘Disovery of India’ and quoted what she learnt about “law and order” from Kalhan’s Rajtarangini, the 12th century historic chronicle of kings in Kashmir.
The chairperson of the National League for Democracy has spent nearly 15 years under house arrest.
“During the years of house arrest, I felt closer to those who I could identify with politically, intellectually, spiritually through their thoughts, even if they were complete strangers or figures of the past, than to those whom I know personally,” she said adding she had deep appreciation for Indian leaders who became her deepest friends.
Ms. Suu Kyi also spoke of her ties to India, where she received her education and the time she spent as a fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies between 1987 and1988 with her husband.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi described Ms. Suu Kyi as a synthesis of the best of East and West, but rooted in her own country and its culture, just like Nehru. “She exemplifies all qualities he [Nehru] most admired — fearlessness, integrity, moral and intellectual courage, perseverance, freedom from anger and bitterness and unqualified devotion to betterment of the life of her people through the path of dialogue and national reconciliation,” she said.