Top Myanmar General, Indian Defense Chief Talk Border Security, Insurgency

By Htet Naing Zaw 26 June 2020

NAYPYITAW—Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh met this week to discuss how to promote ties between their countries’ armed forces, border security and counter-insurgency operations along the border.

The two met in Moscow on the sidelines of an event to mark the 75th anniversary of Russian Victory Day, which commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945 at the end of World War II.

“The [Myanmar military] is already friendly with the Indian military. [The two] discussed border stability, border region management and [plans] to prevent terrorists from hiding along the border,” Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.

The spokesman said Myanmar has a policy of zero tolerance towards any armed organization attempting to use its territory to launch attacks against the government of a neighboring country. He said that, based on this policy, the Myanmar military carried out an operation against anti-Indian government rebels in 2019.

In May, the Myanmar government handed 22 ethnic Assam and Meitei rebels over to the Indian government in Sagaing Region as the rebels belong to groups fighting against the Indian government from bases along the Myanmar-India border.

Myanmar received its first submarine from India last year, a Russian-made Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarine, and India continues to provide technical support for the submarine, according to the military spokesman.

“The submarine we acquired from India was originally slated to be officially commissioned into service before March 27 [Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day], but this had to be suspended due to COVID-19. When [the pandemic] is under control, we will officially put the submarine into service,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

Political analyst Dr. Yan Myo Thein said military cooperation is part of increasingly close ties between the two governments.

“The Myanmar military has attached greater importance to its ties with India in order to balance out Chinese influence. The defense cooperation will mainly focus on defense equipment and joint military operations,” said Dr. Yan Myo Thein.

Last year, New Delhi made the bold move of inviting Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing to India shortly after the US announced that the Myanmar military chief and his deputy, Vice Senior General Soe Win and two other senior military officers were banned from entering the country. India’s invitation came amid increasing pressure and sanctions from some Western countries against the Myanmar military over human rights abuses as well as prolonged fighting in Rakhine State.

The senior general and the Indian defense minister discussed how to cooperate on security to ensure the successful implementation of the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project across the Mizoram border, according to Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

The project is expected to open sea routes and a highway transport system linking the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with the country’s landlocked northeastern state of Mizoram through Myanmar’s Rakhine and Chin states.

Chin State’s Paletwa Township and the north of adjacent Rakhine State have seen heavy fighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) since late 2018.

Last year, the AA disrupted the movement of materials for the Indian partnership project along the Kaladan river. It kidnapped Indian employees traveling by boat from Paletwa to Kyauktaw and an Indian man died in detention.

According to some observers in Myanmar, India believes that China is playing a part in the AA’s disruptions to the Kaladan project.

Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun has also said that a foreign country is behind the AA, citing the modern technologies the AA has allegedly used in mine attacks on the military in Rakhine State.

The spokesman once told The Irrawaddy that the ethnic armed group, which the Myanmar government and military declared a terrorist organization earlier this year, has modern technologies to trigger landmines via mobile phones, walkie-talkies, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

During his visit to Russia, Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing told Russia-based RT News Agency that the Myanmar military is planning to hold the 75th Anniversary of Armed Forces Day after it had to postpone the event due to COVID-19 in March.

“We intend to hold the event if and when COVID-19 can be controlled to a certain extent. So, if circumstances allow, we will take action to hold it,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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