Myanmar- Israel 59 Years of Freindly Relations
Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and Minister U Ba Swe –December 1961
At first glance, the commonalities between the State of Israel and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar are not as obvious as it would seem. Yet, Israel and Myanmar share more than meets the eye. Both countries gained independence from Great Britain in 1948, and this year mark 59 years of friendly diplomatic relations. To date, there have been 20 Israeli Ambassadors to Myanmar, and 20 Myanmar Ambassadors to Israel.
U Nu was the first foreign Prime Minister to visit the newly independent State of Israel in 1955 and David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) spent one of the longest official trips abroad for an Israeli Prime Minister, with a two-week sojourn 1961, which included also studies in Buddhism. Among the other landmark visits from Israel warrant mentioning are those of President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and Foreign Ministers Moshe Sharett, Golda Meir, Abba Eban, Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres.
Israel and Myanmar have undertaken many international cooperation ventures in the fields of agriculture, health and education. Through Mashav – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and other public organizations, collaborations on an ongoing basis are taking place in various commercial, agricultural, cultural, tourism and other fields. In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, assistance from the people of Israel and its government came in to Myanmar and Israel is still taking part in reconstruction projects.
Thousands of students from Myanmar have received training in-country and scholarships for studies in Israel as well. Many Israelis visit Myanmar every year for its friendly people, natural beauty and wonders; some also practice Myanmar’s unique classical Theravada Buddhism.
A historical photo exhibition that was arrived in 2008 illustrates the first years of relations between The State of Israel and The Republic of the Union of Myanmar. It acknowledges and pays homage to all the many people who have contributed to the good relations over the course of these years. We all look forward to similarly warm relations in the coming years as well.
Bilateral Relations: Relations Overview
Prime Minister David Ben Gurion dressed in Burmese National Costume during his visit to Yangon as Guest of Prime Minister U Nu
The State of Israel and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar achieved independence in the same year - 1948. Myanmar was the first country in Southeast Asia that recognized Israel as an independent state. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established at the beginning of the 50’s.
In the years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the two countries have nurtured a strong bond of friendship, which have included visits of high level officials from both countries.
Bilateral cooperation has developed in various fields of endeavor, including education, agriculture, health, and the economy. Under the sponsorship of MASHAV, the Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and through other channels, government officials and professionals from various ministries in Myanmar have visited Israel for study tours as well as for training programs. Moreover, numerous “on-the-spot” courses in Myanmar have been conducted in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Commerce and Science and Technology as well as International NGOs like UNDP.
Since 1994, successful ongoing collaboration in the fields of agriculture and livestock is taking place in cooperation with AICAT (Arava International Center for Agricultural Training) and the Granot Agro-Studies Group and later also with the Ramat Negev Agro Research Centre. During this period, the number of Myanmar trainees that have participated in the program and have experienced training in Israel is well over one thousand five hundred. The trainees from Myanmar are introduced to modern methods of irrigation; growing vegetables, fruits, and flowers, and livestock breeding by means of computers and advanced technologies in cooperation with Israeli farmers.
Cooperation between the two countries has always been wide in the education sector as well. A trilateral academic cooperation has been formed between the Israeli Embassy, the Myanmar Ministry of Education, and non-governmental organizations like UNICEF, in order to deal with issues of early childhood education, like naturalistic language enrichment.
After Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, the Israeli government and people expressed their condolences to the victims, and made the following donations:
1) A cargo of 8 tons of medical supplies was sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel and the JOINT (American – Jewish Joint Distribution Committee), and was donated to the victims through Malteser International;
2) A cargo of more than 2 tons of food and shelter supplies was sent by “Latet” (which means “to give”) – a humanitarian Israeli organization.
Israel is also participating in other rehabilitation projects of several villages in the delta region.
There is a great potential for developing economic ties and for expanding the extent of bilateral trade. In 2011, H.E. Deputy Minister for Commerce Dr. Pwint San had attended WATEC Israel 2011 conference with Myanmar Delegation from Republic of the Union of Myanmar Federation Chamber of Commerce (RUMFCCI) whch signed MOU with Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC).Companies from the two countries can look into opportunities for doing business, and such cooperation already exists, for example, in the fields of livestock and fisheries, and information technology.