India rolls out the red carpet for Myanmar military chief, with an eye firmly on China

NEW DELHI : India is going all out to make Myanmar military chief’s eight-day visit here a resounding success with top-level meetings, visits to defence establishments and a series of banquets, at a time when Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a continuing stand-off near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.

Commander-in-chief of Myanmar armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, is slated to meet PM Narendra Modi, defence minister Arun Jaitley and national security advisor Ajit Doval on July 14, after an extensive tour of India that began at Gaya on Friday.

Sources say India is ready to further crank up military supplies to Myanmar to counter Chinese strategic inroads into the country, as part of the overall plan to expand defence cooperation with ASEAN countries under the more action-oriented ‘Act East’ policy.

India already provides 105mm light artillery guns, rocket launchers, rifles, radars, mortars, bailey bridges, communication gear, night-vision devices, war-gaming software and road construction equipment as well as naval gun-boats, sonars, acoustic domes and directing gear to Myanmar. A $37.9 million deal for supply of lightweight torpedoes was also recently finalized.

While Indian warships make regular port calls to Myanmar and undertake coordinated patrolling along the bilateral maritime boundary, Indian Army too has stepped-up cooperation with Myanmarese forces along the porous 1,643-km land border to turn the heat on Indian insurgent groups operating in the region.

In June 2015, incidentally, Indian para-commandos conducted a “successful” cross-border raid against two insurgent camps inside Myanmar after 18 Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush in Chandel district of Manipur. It did lead to some heart-burn in Naypyidaw, but things are back on an even keel with New Delhi now.

As a special gesture to the visiting Myanmar general, Army chief General Bipin Rawat flew down to Gaya to host a banquet at the Officer’s Training Academy there on Friday evening. After the Bodh Gaya and Sarnath Buddhist circuits and the Ganga Ghat in Varanasi, Gen Min Aung Hlaing will head for Ahmedabad to visit the Amul dairy and Nano car factories as well as the Army’s 11 Infantry Division on Sunday.

From there, he proceeds to the Armoured Corps Centre and College at Ahmednagar, followed by the Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam, before finally arriving in New Delhi on July 13.

India has been slowly but steadily stepping up defence cooperation, ranging from expansion in military visits and exercises to training and technology-sharing, with Asean member-states like Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, as was reported by TOI.

India had earlier largely disregarded China’s expanding footprint in Myanmar, the only Asean country with whom its shares land and maritime boundaries, but later switched gears to make amends. Since then, India has assiduously upgraded diplomatic, economic and military cooperation with Myanmar, apart from prime ministerial (Manmohan Singh and Modi) and other high-level visits to the country.

Source : The Economic Times

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