Chairperson of The National League for Democracy of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi stands with officials as she sprinkles rose petals while paying tribute at Rajghat, The Memorial to Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi yesterday. Photo: AFP
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday urged the people of India to help her country secure democracy as she paid her first visit for 25 years.
"We have not yet achieved the goal of democracy," Suu Kyi, who was released from military house arrest in 2010, said during a speech in New Delhi.
"We are still trying, and we hope that in this last and most difficult phase the people of India will stand by us."
Suu Kyi also expressed her sadness that India, which was previously one of her strongest supporters, changed tack in the 1990s and began to engage with Myanmar's junta at a time when it was a pariah in the West.
"I have been asked whether I was disappointed that India had not stood staunchly by us throughout the years of our struggle for democracy," she said.
"I was saddened to feel that... India had drawn away from us during our very difficult days."
"Disappointment is not something we can indulge in," she added in a veiled criticism of the Indian government as she delivered a lecture in memory of the country's first post-independence prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Nobel peace prize winner had earlier held talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who hailed her "indomitable courage".
"Our good wishes are with you as indeed with your struggle for democracy," Singh said in comments reported by the Press Trust of India news agency.
Singh had invited Suu Kyi to New Delhi when he visited Myanmar in May to try to boost trade and counter the influence of regional rival China.
India shares a 1,640 kilometre (1,020 mile) border with its northeastern neighbour Myanmar, and the two former British colonies have a long shared history.
Suu Kyi's father General Aung San -- regarded as Myanmar's independence hero -- was a personal friend of Nehru.
Singh's government is keen to rebuild ties with Suu Kyi, who led her party to a landslide victory in parliamentary by-elections in April.
Her release, last year's end to military rule and the prospect of nationwide elections in 2015 have enabled Myanmar to establish links with the West and US President Barack Obama is due to visit next week.
During the four-day trip, Suu Kyi is also due to visit parliament and inspect rural development projects.
On Friday she will visit the Lady Shri Ram college in New Delhi, where she graduated with a degree in politics in the 1960s when her mother served as ambassador to India.
Suu Kyi last visited India in 1987 when she travelled to Simla to join her husband Michael Aris, who was studying in the picturesque hill station.