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China on mind, India set to hand over sub to Myanmar

The impending transfer of the INS Sindhuvir is part of India’s continuing policy to counter China’s strategic inroads into Myanmar. The 3,000-tonne INS Sindhuvir may be 31 years old but it has undergone regular refits in India and Russia over the years, with the latest modernisation work being undertaken on the diesel-electric boat in Visakhapatnam.

, TNN|
Updated: Dec 09, 2019, 11.09 AM IST
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(This story originally appeared in on Dec 09, 2019)
NEW DELHI: In a big boost to bilateral defence cooperation, Myanmar is set to soon commission its first-ever submarine after it is formally handed over by India.

The impending transfer of the Russian-origin INS Sindhuvir is part of India’s continuing policy to counter China’s strategic inroads into Myanmar. The 3,000-tonne INS Sindhuvir may be 31 years old but it has undergone regular refits in India and Russia over the years, with the latest modernisation work being undertaken on the diesel-electric boat at Hindustan Shipyard Limited in Visakhapatnam.

The Navy, on being contacted, refused to say anything on the matter. But sources said on Sunday that Myanmar will use INS Sindhuvir to train its sailors in the complex art of underwater combat operations from March-April 2020.

Myanmar has plans to buy similar Kilo-class submarines — called Sindhughosh-class by India — from Russia, which gained ground after 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 assistance.

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

Myanmar is the only Asean country with which India shares a 1,643-km land border as well as a maritime boundary. While India does not have China’s economic and military wherewithal, it has worked to ramp up diplomatic, economic and military cooperation with Myanmar since Manmohan Singh became the first Indian PM in 25 years to visit the country in May 2012.

Apart from training 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. The next ‘IMBEX’ exercise between the two armies, for instance, is slated to be held in Myanmar in February-March.

India has 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 PSU Bharat Electronics Ltd, 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, as earlier reported by TOI.

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 Myanmarese 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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