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Now, Antony headed for Myanmar to bolster defence ties



New Recruit

Mar 2, 2012
Published January 5, 2013 | By admin

Better border management as well as “capacity-building” of the Myanmarese armed forces will figure high on the agenda when defence minister A K Antony heads for Naypyitaw later this month to boost bilateral military cooperation.

Defence ministry officials on Friday said Antony will be visiting Myanmar — a country with which India has assiduously ramped up diplomatic, economic and military cooperation to counter China’s deep strategic inroads there — on January 22-23.

Myanmar’s importance on Indian strategic radar screens can be gauged from the fact that Antony’s visit comes shortly after foreign minister Salman Khurshid and Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne, in his capacity as the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, visited the country in November-December.

“A MoU on border management is being worked out with Myanmar, the only Asean country with which India shares land and maritime boundaries. The MoU will include border infrastructure development as well as better coordination among the forces guarding the 1,643-km land border,” said an official.

India will also step up training of the Myanmarese armed forces as part of the overall capacity-building plan. This, for instance, will include training Myanmarese air force pilots to fly the Russian-origin Mi-35 “attack” helicopters. Similarly, “more vacancies” for Myanmarese personnel will also be created at Indian Army’s establishments like the counter-insurgency and jungle warfare school at Vairengte in Mizoram. “Myanmar is very keen on military training with India,” said the official.

India has also been supplying some military hardware and software to Myanmar, which ranges from Islander maritime patrol aircraft and naval gun-boats to 105mm light artillery guns, mortars, grenade-launchers and rifles. It is also getting some armaments and electronic equipment, including radars manufactured by Bharat Electronics Ltd, for its warships like frigates and corvettes.

Seeking deeper engagement with the military junta in the energy-rich Myanmar, even as it keeps lines open with pro-democracy crusader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, New Delhi is also keen to ensure the country step up cooperation in flushing out Indian insurgent groups operating from its soil.

There has been a flurry of top-level visits to the country after PM Manmohan Singh laid the foundation for greater bilateral economic cooperation during his visit to Naypyitaw last May. During the first such PM-level visit in 25 years, the two countries had inked a dozen MoUs, from an air services agreement and border area development pact to a joint trade & investment forum and extension of a $500-million line of credit to Myanmar.

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