Deeper security ties lie ahead

Visit saw two sides forming deeper defence ties

Delhi will be heaving a sigh of relief following the successful visit of Myanmar’s army chief, Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing to India. The visit saw the two sides committing to deeper defence and security cooperation. While there was no official word on what transpired during Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s interactions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, army chief Gen Dalbir Singh and a host of security and intelligence officials, media reports indicate that the two sides are looking to cooperate more robustly in managing their long border and in tackling Indian insurgents taking sanctuary in Myanmar. That the Myanmar army chief visited the headquarters of the Indian Army’s Eastern Command in Kolkata, which is responsible for security in India’s North East and along its border with Myanmar, is significant. Security analysts predict that joint operations to tackle the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) and other Indian insurgents operating from Myanmar can be expected in the coming weeks and months. During Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s interaction with India’s security establishment, the two sides are likely to have charted out their counter-insurgency strategy.

What makes the outcome of the Myanmar army chief’s visit all the more significant is that only a couple of months ago bilateral relations ran into trouble when India ruffled feathers of the Myanmar Army top brass. In early June, India’s special forces carried out military operations against the Naga militants inside Myanmar territory. The operation was a success, prompting some in India, including Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore, to indulge in some crude chest-thumping. Not surprisingly, this insensitivity on the part of India, which painted the Myanmar government in a poor light, raised hackles in Naypyidaw. Although Doval rushed to Myanmar to clarify, Delhi remained apprehensive over the impact this would have on bilateral cooperation. A meeting of the India-Myanmar Joint Consultative Commission in Delhi on July 16 went off well, raising India’s hope that relations were limping back to normalcy. As India intensifies security cooperation with Myanmar in the coming months, it must bear in mind the lessons from the recent crisis. Respecting the sentiments and concerns of its neighbours is important. Myanmar has reportedly told Delhi that Indian security forces can carry out military operations on Myanmar soil on the condition that Myanmar citizens are not harmed. India must take this request seriously.
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