India has proposed building a petroleum refinery with $6 billion in Myanmar in an effort to counter the influence of China, that has been heavily investing in energy sector of the country, Indian media reported.
The proposal was made on Monday during a rare two-day joint visit to Myanmar by Indian Army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. They called on Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the chief of Myanmar Army Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
"This project would be a win-win arrangement for both countries... As of now, Indian Oil Corp has evinced interest in the project," reported Livemint, quoting a source as saying.
India's move to ensure that Myanmar does not get firmly set in China's orbit comes at a time when there are renewed efforts by Beijing to woo Myanmar amid rising rivalry between India and China following clashes between the two armies in Galwan Valley, that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Myanmar in January, the two countries signed a slew of pacts, including a concession and shareholder's agreement for Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone off the Bay of Bengal. With a deepwater port, it is the terminus of the 1,700-km China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, a major link in Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, whose other end lies in China's Yunnan province.
Other agreements covered oil and gas pipelines, and road and rail projects from southern China through Myanmar to Kyaukphyu.
China now accounts for 70 percent of foreign investments in Myanmar's energy sector.
India and Myanmar also discussed progress in the ongoing Indian-assisted infrastructure projects. They agreed to work towards operationalisation of Sittwe Port in Rakhine in the first quarter of 2021.
Competition between India and China grows over influence in the natural resources-rich Myanmar, which is facing a genocide case at the top UN court, for its treatment of Rohingya.
Some 750,000 Rohingya fled a brutal military campaign in Rakhine State to Bangladesh in 2017.
Bangladesh, burdened with sheltering one million Rohingya, has been seeking assistance of India and China, the regional powers both having close relations with Myanmar.
The issue also came up during the Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting between Bangladesh and India on September 29.
Rohingya repatriation has not been possible despite two attempts in the last three years. Rohingyas say conditions in Rakhine are not safe and there is no guarantee of citizenship and freedom of movement.
During the JCC meeting, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said pockets of radicalisation may grow in Rohingya camps if repatriation does not take place at the earliest.
During the meeting with Suu Kyi, Shringla conveyed India's support for ensuring safe, sustainable and speedy return of displaced persons (Rohingya) to Rakhine from Bangladesh "based on the understanding between Bangladesh and Myanmar", reports India Today, quoting sources.
China has also spoken of assistance in Rohingya repatriation, but it has yet to yield any concrete result.