Senior Pakistan defense official Colonel Imran Khan visited the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw last week to discuss military cooperation with the junta, according to sources familiar with his visit.
Colonel Khan’s two-day visit from November 29 to December 1 is the latest sign of the growing defense ties between Islamabad and Naypyitaw. The military regime did not comment on the attaché’s visit and no details of what was discussed have emerged.
A 10-member team from the Myanmar Air Force (MAF) is currently in Pakistan undergoing training for four weeks on precision targeting in air operations and on the JF-17 jet fighter, which was jointly developed by China and Pakistan.
The training is believed to be an attempt to fix the problems that have left the MAF’s JF-17’s grounded due to technical malfunctions.
Myanmar bought 16 JF-17’s from China. The first batch of six aircraft was delivered in 2018, but details about the delivery date for the other 10 remain unclear. Myanmar was the first country to buy the JF-17.
The MAF has also procured JF-17 Block-II aircraft from Pakistan to bolster its strength. With the Myanmar military’s ground forces under pressure from the resistance, the junta is increasingly reliant on air strikes to counter People’s Defense Forces (PDF) and ethnic armed organizations (EAO).
The Pakistan Embassy in Yangon didn’t respond to The Irrawaddy’s request for a comment.
Pakistan is one of just a handful of countries that maintain military relations with the Myanmar regime.
In September last year, a high-level delegation from Pakistan’s defense ministry visited Myanmar. They are believed to have held talks with Myanmar’s military leaders on advanced ordnance technology, aircraft repair and maintenance, and naval munitions. The visit was not publicized by either side.
Relations between Islamabad and Naypyitaw were strained by the Rohingya crisis of 2017, when more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to neighboring Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched clearance operations in northern Rakhine State in response to attacks by Rohingya guerrillas on police outposts.
Analysts believe that in the light of the changing political landscape in Myanmar, Pakistani officials have decided to reach out to the junta to revive relations, as the Myanmar regime is in need of weapons such as air-to-surface missiles to crackdown on PDFs and EAOs.
Normally, the junta buys arms from Russia and China. But with international sanctions imposed on the regime, China can use Pakistan as a proxy to continue its assistance to the Myanmar military, analysts said.