India to help modernise Myanmar Army and Navy to broad-base defence partnership

NEW DELHI: In what could be described as a major initiative in the field of military diplomacy India on Thursday decided to assist modernisation of Myanmar’s Army and Navy to upgrade military to military cooperation to the next level, nearly a month after joint operations targeted insurgents along 1640-km-long land boundary.

The decision to expand military cooperation and effective border management was taken at the maiden Joint Consultative Commission Meeting co-chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Myanmarese counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin here on Thursday. Delhi is ready to assist creating a modern national army for Myanmar besides assistance in building the country’s Navy.

“India is committed to support the modernization of Myanmar Armed Forces and would be happy to share its experience in functioning in a democratic environment, in creating a national army, cooperation in the field of IT, in dealing with emerging security challenges, and military to military cooperation including in terms of training. She also expressed India’s commitment to cooperate with Myanmar in building a professional and capable Myanmar Navy to safeguard and ensure its maritime security,” according to a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting.

This is a significant development amid slide in Sino-Myanmar ties. Apart from this while there is a democratic government in power, the large Myanmar Army still calls the shots in that country. While India has been supplying Myanmarese Army with defence equipment including rifles and tanks in the past, the current decision hopes to launch a comprehensive cooperation on the lines of India’s defence partnership with Nepal, Bhutan and too an extent with Afghanistan. India and Myanmar also decided to increase maritime security cooperation in Bay of Bengal.

Ahead of Indian PM’s visit to Myanmar in near future, the two countries have also decided to broad base cooperation for effective border management with an eye on combatting cross-border insurgency. The Joint Consultative Commission of the two countries delved extensively on having better coordination and cooperation between their security forces to deal with insurgent groups, particularly those from the northeast region.

Both foreign ministers reiterated that territories of either country would not be allowed to be used for activities inimical to the other. Myanmar, considered one of India’s strategic neighbours, shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including insurgency hit Manipur.

The two Ministers agreed that negotiations should be conducted to enable early conclusion of the bilateral MoU on Movement of People across the Land Border. It was agreed that first meeting of the India -Myanmar Joint Boundary Working Group, with a mandate to address all outstanding boundary issues, would be held in New Delhi at the earliest.

Swaraj conveyed that a joint survey by officers of the two Foreign Ministries could be undertaken to inspect the earth blockage site on Ti-Ho (Tizu) river on India-Myanmar border to inspect the efforts made by local authorities of Mizoram to remove the debris and restore the normal course of river. The two Ministers agreed that a joint visit at a senior official level would be arranged to the India-Myanmar border in Nagaland sector to understand situation in this sector.

The Modi government wants to continue high-level engagement with Myanmar’s leadership ahead of general elections there later this year.

The elections scheduled for this November will be the first since Myanmar ended decades of military rule in 2011, the year Thein Sein began his current five-year term in office as President. The country’s next president is expected to be chosen by the legislature early next year. There is expectation in some quarters that Thein Sein could visit India ahead of the polls.

Last month India closely followed Nobel Peace Prize winning Myanmarese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s maiden visit to China. Experts said if Suu Kyi establishes a closer rapport with the Chinese government, India is likely to strengthen its security partnership with Myanmar in the backdrop of chill in China-Myanmar ties over border issues.

In recent months, the conflict in Myanmar’s Kokang Region, along the Sino-Myanmar border, has spilled over into Yunnan, resulting in casualties of Chinese nationals. Myanmar had also accused China of assisting the rebels from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. China continues to be Myanmar’s largest investor, accounting for about $14.6 billion in foreign direct investment. China has invested in almost every sector in the country, with a special focus on hydropower, gas and oil.

Myanmar is India’s gateway to Southeast Asia and key to Modi government’s Act East policy, under which India now wants to conclude the pending development projects at a fast pace, officials said.

Source: The Economic Times

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