Published November 14, 2012
NEW DELHI – Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with India's prime minister and foreign secretary on Wednesday as part of a trip to establish closer ties between the countries.
Suu Kyi, who arrived Tuesday for a five-day visit, met separately with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai. Details of the meetings were not immediately available.
In the 1980s and early '90s, India was a strong supporter of Suu Kyi in her struggle against the country's military junta for which she received the Nobel Peace Prize. But in the mid-1990s, India changed tack to engage with the junta, resisting pressure from Western democracies that had imposed economic sanctions on Myanmar.
New Delhi insisted it had to follow a pragmatic policy because it needed its neighbor's help in cracking down on Indian rebels who had built hideouts in the jungles along the India-Myanmar border. The new policy also underscored India's quest for energy supplies and concerns about China's strong influence in the Southeast Asian country.
Suu Kyi also visited the memorials of Indian independence leaders Mohandas K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru on Wednesday, and delivered the prestigious Nehru Memorial Lecture, held annually to mark the birthday of independent India's first elected leader.
"I was saddened to see that we had drawn away from India, or rather that India had drawn away from us during our very difficult days, but I always had faith in the lasting friendship between our two countries based on lasting friendships between our two peoples," Suu Kyi said during her moving speech.
"Governments come and go, and that's what democracy is all about, but people remain," she said.
Singh had invited Suu Kyi to deliver the lecture when he met with her in Myanmar's main city of Yangon in May.
Suu Kyi said that Myanmar had still not reached the goal of democracy and hoped that in "this last, I hope, and most difficult phase, India will stand by us and walk by us as we proceed on the path that they were able to proceed upon many years before us."
Her visit is also an emotional one because Suu Kyi spent several years in India as a student in the early 1960s while her mother was ambassador to the country. Her itinerary includes a visit to her old college in New Delhi on Friday.
Students, teachers and Suu Kyi's old friends were in the audience during her lecture Wednesday.
"I'd like to see the old places, the places where I spent time as a teenager," she had told The Hindu newspaper in an interview published Tuesday. She last visited India in the late 1980s, shortly before she was placed under house arrest for the first time in 1989.
Suu Kyi is to meet Thursday with Vice President Hamid Ansari, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid and Speaker of Parliament Meira Kumar.
She also is to visit Parliament and travel to southern India to see rural development projects and women's empowerment programs, according to India's Foreign Ministry.