India hosts Myanmar Gen US barred over Rohingya abuses

India, Myanmar sign defence cooperation MoU

Myanmar's Commander-In-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing inspects the Tri-Services guard of honour at South Block in New Delhi, on July 29, 2019. PTI

India is hosting Myanmar Army's Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing for a nine-day-tour – just days after President Donald Trump's administration in Washington D.C. barred his entry to the United States for his role during the 2017 “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingyas in Rakhine State of his country. 

Hlaing commenced his official visit to India on July 25. He will conclude the visit on August 2. He was accorded a Guard of Honour by Indian Army, Navy and Air Force before his meeting with Minister of State for Defence, Shripad Naik, on Monday. 

They discussed enhancing defence co-operation, holding joint exercises and training provided by India to armed forces of Myanmar, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Defence said in New Delhi. The two sides also discussed strengthening maritime security by joint surveillance and capacity building and medical co-operation in addition to exploring coordinated response to pollution and developing new infrastructure. 

Naik and Hlaing later witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on defence co-operation between India and Myanmar. 

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also had a “productive meeting” with Myanmar Army chief. 

Hlaing's visit to India commenced just after Trump Administration barred him from entering the US, holding him responsible for “gross human rights violations, including in extra-judicial killings in northern Rakhine State, Burma (Myanmar), during the ethnic cleansing of (the) Rohingyas”.

The immediate family members of the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Army were also barred from entering the US. Trump Administration also took the same action against three other officers of Myanmar's Army – Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, Brigadier General Than Oo and Brigadier General Aung Aung. 

The minority Rohingyas have since long been victims of persecution in the Rakhine State, where Buddhists constitute the majority. They have been denied citizenship and most of them have been stateless, despite living for generations in Myanmar. 

Myanmar's armed forces launched the latest military crackdown against the Rohingyas on August 25, 2017 after a militant outfit killed 12 security personnel in Rakhine. With hundreds of them killed and villages burnt down, over 723,000 more Rohingyas, including women and children, had too flee Myanmar and take refuge in Bangladesh. The Myanmar Army's atrocities against the Rohingyas drew condemnation from around the world, with Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling it “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. 

New Delhi, however, refrained from joining others in criticizing Myanmar's Government and Army – ostensibly in view of its strategic interests in a neighbouring country. 

India has since long been competing with China for influence in Myanmar. The armed forces of the two neighbouring nations have been cooperating over the past few years to effectively deal with the militants, who often launch attacks in north-eastern states of India from bases in Myanmar.  

“A foreign policy focussed on advancing our national security,” Jaishankar tweeted after his meeting with Myanmar Army chief on Monday. 

Hlaing also had meetings with chiefs of Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, General Bipin Rawat Admiral Karambir Singh and Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa. 

“Myanmar is a key pillar of India’s Act East Policy towards prioritising relations with its East Asian neighbours. India has steadily increased defence co-operation with Myanmar in recent years,” a spokesperson of the Ministry of Defence said on the visit of Myanmar Army chief. 

Hlaing recently drew flak from human rights organizations and several foreign nations once again after it was revealed that he had pardoned the seven Myanmar Army soldiers who had been sent to prison for killing 10 Rohingya men and boys at Inn Din village at Rakhine State on September 2, 2017. Two Reuters journalists, who had exposed the Inn Din massacre, however, had to spend over 500 days in jails in Myanmar. 

“One egregious example of the continued and severe lack of accountability for the military and its senior leadership was the recent disclosure that Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing ordered the release of the soldiers convicted of the extra-judicial killings at Inn Din during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya,” Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, said in a statement on July 16 last.  “The Commander-in-Chief released these criminals after only months in prison, while the journalists who told the world about the killings in Inn Din were jailed for more than 500 days.”

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