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Xi vows to bolster ties with Myanmar to 'new level'

Nay Pyi Taw: President Xi Jinping on Friday vowed to take China's ties with Myanmar to a "new level" during his maiden visit, which aims at boosting the Communist giant's investments in mammoth infrastructure projects, including a USD 1.3-million port deal that will provide Beijing a stepping stone to the Indian Ocean.

On his arrival in Myanmar, the first by a Chinese leader in 19 years, President Xi received a royal welcome with two fighter jets escorting his plane after it entered the country's airspace.

As his plane touched down in Nay Pyi Taw, children presented him flowers before he was whisked off to a greeting party, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Huge portraits of the Chinese President and banners celebrating the China-Myanmar friendship and cooperation were put up along Xi's route from the airport to downtown.

According to Xinhua, Xi told Myanmar leaders that he was convinced that his visit will "take the bilateral ties to a new level and into a new era".

China, which for decades has maintained close ties with Myanmar military even when the Myanmar State Counsellor, Suu Kyi, was incarcerated for years, has again became an important ally to fend off global isolation of Nay Pyi Taw in the wake of the Rohingya crisis.

During his trip, Xi is expected to sign a series of infrastructure agreements as part of his ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which critics say, is saddling nations with debt.

India has been severely critical of the BRI as it comprises the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

A key deal which the Chinese President is expected to finalise with Myanmar is the USD 1.3 billion project to develop the Kyaukphyu port, which will provide China a stepping stone to the Indian Ocean, besides energy security.

Some reports said that the two countries have already reached an agreement on the deep-sea port project in 2018.

China has already acquired the Gwadar port in Pakistan, followed by Hambantota in Sri Lanka in India's

backyard.

China's Ambassador to Myanmar, Chen Hai, on Sunday last said Xi was expected to oversee the signing of several deals during a two-day visit, including possibly putting the final piece of the puzzle in the USD 1.3 billion port deal, negotiations for which have been going on for several years, according to a report in Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

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