Suu Kyi in India, nostalgia in the air

Last Updated: Tue, Nov 13, 2012 13:49 hrs

New Delhi: Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrived here Tuesday on a six-day visit during which she will meet India's leaders as well as friends from her school and college days in Delhi.

An icon of the pro-democracy movement in her country, Nobel laureate Suu Kyi flashed a traditional "namaste" after stepping out of the aircraft that brought her from Yangon.

This will be Suu Kyi's first visit to India in nearly 40 years, according to newsmagazine Irrawaddy.

An aide told IANS that she will mostly rest Tuesday, enjoying the colourful festival of Diwali, before beginning her engagements Wednesday.

Alana Golmei, coordinator of the Burma Centre Delhi, told IANS: "She will mostly rest after her journey. She has a busy day tomorrow."

She will start Wednesday by visiting Rajghat and Shantivan, paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and follow it up with a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In an interview published in The Hindu newspaper Tuesday, the 67-year-old said she would like to "see my old friends again, just to talk with them, just to be with them".

Suu Kyi studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School and graduated in political science from Lady Shri Ram College, one of Delhi's most reputed colleges, when her mother was Burma's envoy to India.

The mother and daughter -- Suu Kyi's father was a friend of Nehru, India's first prime minister -- lived in the 1960s on 24 Akbar Road, now the headquarters of the Congress party.

"I would like to see the old places, the places where I spent time as a teenager, Lady Shri Ram College, see how it is going -- that is on a personal level," she told The Hindu.

She is expected to meet students and the faculty of LSR, as her college is known.

On the political level, she said she wanted closer relations between the people of the two countries because a gulf had emerged in recent years.

India is also keen for a greater engagement with the multi-party polity in Myanmar, where President Thein Sein has implemented a series of economic and political reforms since 2011.

Also Wednesday, she will deliver the Nehru Memorial Lecture on the occasion of his birth anniversary.

Suu Kyi is also scheduled to meet Vice President Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

She will visit The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Gurgaon, before flying to Bangalore and Andhra Pradesh.

India awarded Suu Kyi the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1992 while she was under house arrest under the military government in Myanmar.

During the Indian prime minister's visit to Myanmar in May, Suu Kyi had spoken of the need for greater exchanges between the people of the two countries.

The Myanmar community here is all agog about Suu Kyi's visit, the first by her to India in nearly 40 years.

"Everybody is excited and happy. We only expect that good things come out of the visit and it marks a new beginning for Indo-Burmese relations," said Golmei.

On Friday, Suu Kyi will meet members of the Myanmar community at west Delhi's Prospect Burma School, which she helps fund.

Most people from Myanmar in Delhi (15,000) live in Vikaspuri, where the school is located. They are refugees, with the majority belonging to Chin state which borders India.

Golmei said: "This visit would be mostly about renewing old ties and meeting old friends who had supported her in her years of struggle."

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