Web exclusive: India extends defence support to Myanmar, crucial to prevent Chinese stronghold

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Sep 23, 2017, 06.02 AM(IST)

Myanmar Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Photograph:( Reuters )

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India is considering supplying arms to?the?Myanmar's government in a?strong sign of?support?at?a time when Western countries are stepping up pressure to let-up the ongoing violence against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine

By Snehashree Mukherjee

India is considering supplying arms to the Myanmar's government in a strong sign of support at a time when Western countries are stepping up pressure on the Myanmar government to let-up the ongoing violence against the Rohingya Muslims of its northwestern Rakhine state.  

Defence analysts, however, say that this move is crucial given the 16,000 km of shared land border between India and Myanmar and its porous nature.  

“The fact that the Myanmar Army chief on his visit to India met the Indian PM Narendra Modi and the Indian defence minister, points clearly to the fact that India is trying to prevent a Chinese stronghold in Burma," defence analyst Lt-Gen Raj Kadyan (Retd) said. 

Emphasising on the geo-political importance of Indo-Myanmar defence ties, Lt-Gen Kadyan said: "India shares 16,000 km of land border and maritime border in Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. Apart from that Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur share the border with Myanmar, and we are talking about porous border as the areas are all hilly.”  

“The well-placed understanding between Myanmar and Indian Army is such that soldiers from both side, in chase of militants, might even cross the border. Recently, Indian army killed two militants at Indo-Myanmar border.” 

Commenting further on India's decision to discuss enhancing military cooperation with its eastern neighbour and training Myanmar sailors in some of India's top courses taught to its army officers at elite Indian defence institutions, he said: "India and Myanmar had officers for defence exchange programmes even in the past. There are many Indian army officers who have been trained at Myanmar defence institutions for UN peacekeeping programmes. Also, Myanmar navy officers, amongst other trainees from different countries, are part of exchange programmes under the defence sector. ” 

Former Indian ambassador to Myanmar Gautam Mukherjee said: “Such defence relations are for capacity building and has been growing steadily over the years.” Reflecting on the past relations he added: "It's mainly from year 2000 that India- Myanmar has made conscious effort to improve bilateral ties. It happened mainly after Suu Kyi's release from house arrest and President Thein Sein's USDP ascent to power.” 

“Otherwise, in the past, we also have incidents where well-to-do Indians who dominated the Myanmar economy left during the pro-democracy agitations of 1988.” 

When asked if Indo-Myanmar defence ties give any message regarding the Rohingya issue, Mukherjee said: "The Rohingyas are a national issue (for India). The decision of deporting Rohingyas has nothing to do with Indo-Myanmar ties. It rather deals with the national security concerns.” 

On the deportation of 40,000 Rohingya Muslims, Indian home minister Rajnath Singh commented on Thursday, “Rohingya Muslims staying in India are not refugees, but illegal immigrants from Myanmar”. 

On the Rohingya issue Lt-Gen Kadyan also concurred, "When it comes to national security, one must not enter into any mode of debate. As far as humanitarian grounds are concerned, India is providing aid to Bangladesh to support the Rohingya refugees." 

On Wednesday, the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Navy, Admiral Tin Aung San met Indian defence minister Nirmala Sitaraman and the Chiefs of India's army, Navy and Air Force. The two sides are discussing the offshore patrol boats, a military official said. 

On the other hand, Britain said this week it was suspending its training programme for the Myanmar military, demanding it takes steps to end the violence against civilians.