1st India-Myanmar naval exercise

Daring Dragon

India and Myanmar will have their first ever bilateral naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal, signalling NayPyiTaw’s willingness to befriend New Delhi, in order to come out of the Chinese spell.

Two warships of the Myanmar Navy, a frigate and a corvette, will arrive at Visakhapatnam on Saturday and stay there for the next four-five days, during which they will interact with the Eastern Naval Command officials, sources told Deccan Herald.

Subsequently, the two Myanmar ships, along with two Indian warships, would undertake a coordinated patrol in an area close to the Coco islands, which is widely believed to be a Chinese listening post. Both Indian Navy and the Myanmar government have, however, denied that speculation.

Notwithstanding the controversies surrounding the Coco islands, the joint patrol will be carried out in that area because of its proximity to the maritime boundary between India and Myanmar. The patrol party will look for unauthorised fishermen, poachers, smugglers and insurgent groups.

The bilateral exercise comes close on the heels of Defence Minister A K Antony’s visit to Myanmar in January, the underlying purpose of which was to make further inroads into a country where the Chinese wields considerable influence.

Three Indian Service Chiefs have travelled to Myanmar in the last 18 months, reflecting upon India’s desire to strengthen the bilateral military ties. For close to a decade, Myanmar remained a preferred destination for Indian military chiefs and senior service officials, demonstrating its importance in India's military strategy.

The Myanmar port of Sittwe is believed to be one of the components in China’s “String of Pearls” strategy, under which China is speculated to have plans to utilise Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka) and Sittwe ports to keep an eye on India. The access was given to China for its involvement in building these three ports.

The recent hand over of the management of the Gwadar port to a Chinese company has been described by Antony as a matter of serious concern to the Indian government. Gwadar is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and about 400 km away from the Strait of Hormuz, a key global oil supply route.

 

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