Diplomacy

Countering China: India officially confirms delivering submarine to Myanmar

File Photo: Indian Navy’s Sindhuvir, a Kilo-class submarine of Russian origin.

New Delhi: Shifting its ties with Myanmar to a higher gear, India today officially confirmed it is all set to formally hand over a submarine to its neighbour for boosting its naval capability.

India will transfer the Russian-origin Kilo-class, which will be commissioned by Myanmar as its first-ever submarine to give it the under-water fighting edge against its adversaries in the region.

The submarine, INS Sindhuvir in the Indian Navy, will be leased out to Myanmar, the only ASEAN country to have both land and maritime borders with India, as part of New Delhi‘s policy to checkmate China‘s strategic inroads into the Indian neighbourhood.

“Cooperation in the maritime domain is a part of our diverse and enhanced engagement with Myanmar. In this context, India will be delivering a Kilo-class submarine, INS Sindhuvir, to the Myanmar Navy. We understand that this will be the first submarine of the Myanmar Navy,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at his weekly media briefing.

“This is in accordance with our vision of SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region – and also in line with our commitment to build capacities and self reliance in all our neighbouring countries.”

File Photo: INS Sindhuvir of the Indian Navy.

The 3,000-tonne India-owned submarine is said to be 31 years old but has undergone regular refits at the Visakhapatnam-based state-run Hindustan Shipyard Limited and at Russia over the years, including adding of modern systems on board, the report said without naming the source from where the information was obtained.

For the first time, Myanmar will used INS Sindhuvir in October-November 2020 to train its naval personnel in the complex art of underwater combat.

Myanmar has plans to buy similar Kilo-class submarines — called Sindhughosh-class by India — from Russia. This Myanmar move gained momentum after its neighbour Bangladesh inducted two Ming-class diesel-electric submarines from China in 2016. Bangladesh, incidentally, also plans to construct a submarine base in Cox’s Bazar with China’s help.

In the run-up to the lease of INS Sindhuvir to Myanmar, the Indian Navy has been training sailors from the neighbouring country at its submarine school, INS Satavahana, in Visakhapatnam as well as sending ‘mobile training teams’ to Naypyitaw for the last couple of years, sources said.

India has gone around China’s economic and military heft by ramping up its diplomatic goodwill with Myanmar since May 2012 when Manmohan Singh became the first Indian prime minister in 25 years to visit that nation.

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Apart from training military officers from Myanmar at its various military establishments, Indian now also regularly holds exercises, coordinated naval patrols and service-to-service staff talks with the country.

India has also supplied military hardware and software to Myanmar, which ranges from Islander maritime patrol aircraft and naval gun-boats to 105 mm light artillery guns, mortars, grenade-launchers and rifles.

Myanmar is also getting some armaments and electronic equipment, including radars manufactured by Defence Public Sector Undertaking Bharat Electronics Limited, for its frigates and corvettes. The armies from the two countries have also smashed several insurgent bases and apprehended dozens of militants along their borders under ‘Operation Sunrise’ since January 2019.

The Myanmar Army is conducting stepped-up offensive operations within its territory against Indian insurgent groups like NSCN (Khaplang), ULFA (I) and NDFB (S) as well as Myanmar outfits like Arakan Army and Kachin Independence Army.

Indian Army and Assam Rifles, in turn, have reinforced their positions with additional forces and aerial surveillance along the border to apprehend fleeing militants.

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