Myanmar can help India and China “overcome their problems”, says opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Speaking to journalist Karan Thapar on the India Today TV programme To The Point in her first interview in months, Ms. Suu Kyi, whose party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), is expected to lead general elections next month, said better India-China relations are “to the benefit” of Myanmar as well.
“I believe, if we deal honestly and sincerely with both countries, we can be of help with regard to the relationship between both of them,” Ms. Suu Kyi said at her home in Yangon.
Interestingly, Ms. Suu Kyi drew a comparison rarely made, between the personal styles of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, two leaders she has spent time with over her visits to Delhi and Beijing over the past year. While Prime Minister Modi is more “reserved” in person, President Xi was affable and easy to get on with, Ms. Suu Kyi said.
However, Ms. Suu Kyi added she had felt that Mr. Modi’s reserve was natural. “All leaders of big countries tend to have a bit of reserve because they are in a position where they can’t really open themselves up to all and sundry.
But (PM Modi and President Xi) are different. Mr. Modi is Indian and I have very many Indian friends. I feel at home with Indians and Mr. Modi’s reserve is not in any way a barrier,” she added referring to her schooling in India after her father, Burma’s (now Myanmar) founding leader General Aung San, was assassinated.
Speaking for the first time about Indian operations on NSCN (Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland) camps along the India-Myanmar border in June, Ms. Suu Kyi said it was important to have transparency when it comes to “hot pursuit” missions. The lack of transparency “erodes the very foundations of friendship.” In statements became controversial in Myanmar, ministers had claimed that Indian troops had conducted strikes “inside Myanmar”.
“If we as neighbours are to establish peace on our borders and genuine understanding between our two countries, there has to be more transparency. It’s the lack of transparency that creates all kinds of speculation and suspicion,” she said. Instead, the Nobel laureate said it was better if both countries conduct operations on the militant groups in a separate but coordinated manner.
While all polls predict the NLD will be the single largest party after polls on November 6, the first all-inclusive general election in 24 years, Ms. Suu Kyi has an uphill climb to form government in Myanmar. According to the Constitution, virtually dictated by the junta before Myanmar opened up for economic and political reforms, 25 per cent of the seats in Parliament are nominated by the military, and as a result, the NLD will need 67 per cent, considerably more than a simple majority, in order to come to power.
However Ms. Suu Kyi says she is quite clear that “if the NLD wins elections and we form a government, I am going to be the leader of that government, whether or not I am the President.”
When asked if this would be a role akin to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s influence over PM Manmohan Singh’s government, Ms. Suu Kyi said, “No, no… not quite like that. So you wait and see.”
A PORTRAIT OF MYANMAR’S IRON LADY
Key moments in the life of Myanmar opposition leader and democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi
The events of that year prompt a political awakening for Suu Kyi, and she swiftly becomes a prominent opposition figure.
Aung San Suu Kyi born in Japanese-occupied Rangoon (now Yangon) in closing stages of the Second World War to independence fighter Aung San and his nurse wife Daw Khin Kyi.
General Aung San gunned down by local rivals alongside six other members of his interim government, months before his dream of freedom from British colonial rule is fully realised.
Suu Kyi moves to India with her mother who is appointed ambassador to New Delhi.
A coup by General Ne Win ushers in his "Burmese way to socialism" and decades of brutal and economically disastrous military rule.
Suu Kyi moves to UK to attend Oxford University.
Marries British academic Michael Aris. The newlyweds live for a year in Bhutan before settling in the English countryside.
Suu Kyi becomes a mother to two sons. Immersed in academia, gains a PhD and researches a biography of her father.
Her return to Myanmar, to look after her ailing mother, coincides with a pro-democracy uprising. The military respond brutally: thousands killed, many more imprisoned.
Having crushed the “88 Uprising,” junta declares martial law and changes country’s name to Myanmar. Suu Kyi imprisoned at home on outskirts of Yangon where she spends nearly two decades under house arrest. Wins admiration inside Myanmar and overseas for declining junta offer to allow her to leave the country — at the cost of being cut off from family.
Junta holds national elections. The National League for Democracy — co-founded by Suu Kyi in the wake of the ‘88 uprising — wins a decisive victory but military ignore results, kicking off a prolonged period of repression.
Suu Kyi wins Nobel Peace Prize but unable to collect award in person as she remains under house arrest.
Michael Aris dies. Suu Kyi unable to see him during his illness.
Amid talks between military and United Nations Suu Kyi's house arrest lifted.
Hospitalised after pro-government mob attacks her convoy killing at least four bodyguards. Suu Kyi imprisoned before being returned to house arrest.
Buddhist monks and pro-democracy supporters hold massive street protests. Junta cracks down violently on the movement.
Resentment against military rule seethes in aftermath of deadly cyclone Nargis. Military pens new constitution barring anyone with foreign born children or a spouse from becoming president — a move observers say directly aimed at Suu Kyi.
Myanmar holds first election in 20 years but NLD boycotts. Army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) wins by landslide. Junta releases Suu Kyi from house arrest on 13 November. She is greeted by crowds of supporters after spending 15 of the previous 21 years confined to her home.
Outright military rule gives way to quasi-civilian reformist government under leadership of ex-general Thein Sein. Most western sanctions lifted and international investment begins to flood into Myanmar.
Elected to parliament alongside a string of NLD candidates in by-elections. Barack Obama becomes first U.S. president to visit Myanmar, meets Suu Kyi. Rights groups accuse Suu Kyi of failing to defend Rohingya Muslim minority after communal violence in Rakhine State.
NLD says five million people signed petition calling for removal of military's effective veto on changes to the country's constitution. The junta-era charter bars Suu Kyi from becoming president. Suu Kyi again meets Obama during his second visit to Myanmar, where he urges “free, fair and inclusive” elections.
Suu Kyi confirms NLD will stand in elections slated for 8 November. She is again accused of failing to use her moral authority as Muslim Rohingya are among thousands of migrants stuck at sea as trafficking networks collapse.