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India, Myanmar look to cement ties as China loses foothold

India-Myanmar border area near Tamu. Traders in the area say the Indian authorities ordered border gates in the area closed on March 9. Photo - Supplied. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NAYPYITAW, Oct 6, 2020, WION. Myanmar is going through a significant phase with elections about a month from now and a crucial geopolitical re-alignment strangled by China, Myanmar is expanding its relationship with India, WION reported.

It includes both diplomatic ties and the military relationship. An Indian delegation visited Nay-Pi-Daw – the capital of Myanmar. India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla travelled with the Indian Army chief General MM Naravane – it’s rare for the Indian army chief to go on a bilateral visit with the foreign secretary especially in the middle of a border standoff with China and it would be safe to say that when India and Myanmar sat down to talk – the elephant in the room was the Dragon.

The focus was on two subjects: infrastructure and security. The Indian delegation’s visit comes against the backdrop of two events – first, the Myanmar government decided to split up the new Yangon city project that would connect the Yunnan province in China to central Myanmar. China was to build it single-handedly. A Chinese company had bagged the contract but now, Myanmar plans to open it up to other international partners.

China lost its exclusivity, then China lost the trust of Myanmar’s military. In June, a spokesperson of Myanmar’s military accused China of arming rebel groups. Myanmar says China is supplying sophisticated military weapons to rebels and they fear it could create an insurgency.

Myanmar was ruled by the military for 49 years, they still enjoy immense influence over the civilian government and china has lost favour with the generals. It is increasingly becoming clear Myanmar wants to break free from China’s grip and India seems willing to help.

The foreign secretary and the Army chief met with Myanmar’s top civil and military leadership. They aimed to take the ties forward in areas like security and connectivity. One of the key projects is the operationalisation of Myanmar’s Sittwe port. It will boost Myanmar’s connectivity with India’s northeastern states. Report say both sides want to open up the port by next year.

The defence forces of both sides have been trying to expand their relationship. In 2017, India discussed training of Myanmar’s sailors at India’s elite defence institutions. In the same year, India and Myanmar held their first bilateral military exercises.

w, the security establishment on both sides need to fight the threat of insurgency together. Groups like the Arakan Army has carried out multiple terrorist attacks in Myanmar these groups allegedly have tried to smuggle these weapons to terrorists on the India-Myanmar border.

It poses a direct security challenge for India in the north-east. The visit is the first time that an Indian foreign secretary is travelling with the army chief to a neighbouring country. In August, India had given Myanmar $5 million. It was an annual contribution which is part of a border area development program that began in 2012, so far around 140 projects have been implemented in two regions of Myanmar with India’s assistance.

Today, India handed over a consignment of three thousand vials of Remdesivir to Myanmar. The Indian delegation also called on the commander in chief of the defence forces. The decision to send India’s top diplomat with the military chief was reportedly taken at the highest level because India feels there is a need to strengthen the relationship on both the fronts.

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