Delhi rolls out red carpet for Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi landed in Delhi Tuesday to a reception normally reserved for heads of state or government.

She arrived on Diwali, 25 years after she had celebrated the festival as a fellow at Shimla's Indian Institute of Advanced Study. The Nobel laureate, now the main opposition leader in Myanmar's parliament, is on a six-day visit, officially to deliver the Nehru Memorial lecture on Wednesday. She had been invited by Sonia Gandhi and this was conveyed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he visited Myanmar in May.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, who does not normally receive foreign dignitaries at the airport, was there when Suu Kyi's Air India flight from Bangkok landed at noon today. Sonia will host her at a private dinner at 10 Janpath tonight, sources said.

On Wednesday, Suu Kyi will pay tributes at the samadhis of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the former a mandatory stopover for visiting heads of state or government. She will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, likely to be followed by lunch at his residence, besides meeting Vice President Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid too will host her to dinner.

She has been booked by the South Block's protocol department at the presidential suite of Hotel Leela Palace, another privilege accorded to visiting heads of state. Even her security arrangements are at that level, sources confirmed.

"Close and friendly relations between India and Myanmar have been strengthened in the recent past through exchanges of high level visits, including the state visits of the President of Myanmar to India in October 2011 and the Prime Minister of India to Myanmar in May 2012," the MEA's official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said while announcing her visit. The visit would be part of "our ongoing engagement with the democratic and multi-party polity in Myanmar". "It would provide opportunity to exchange views on all matters of mutual interest with a view to building upon the "We need to engage with both sides, as Myanmar is an important neighbour. Suu Kyi's visit is also aimed at removing some of the misgivings, she might have owing to Delhi's engagement with the military junta," an Indian government source said here today.

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