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Mizzima: India trying hard to build

India trying hard to build military ties with Burma

The Asian Age (July 7, 2000)
By Rahul Bedi
New Delhi, July 6

Army Chief Ved Prakash Malik returned home on Thursday
after his second trip in six months to Burma in an
attempt to forge closer defence links with Rangoon's
long ignored military junta.

Gen. Malik was accompanied by three Army officers,
including a major general and an Indian Navy commodore
from Fortress Andaman and Nicobar, the tri-service
unified command at Port Blair. Officials were
tight-lipped about Gen. Malik's visit, but official
sources said India wanted firmer military ties with
Rangoon to offset China's proliferating influence in

Official sources said this would probably be Gen.
Malik's last visit to a foreign country before he
retires on September 30. They said Gen. Malik was the
most widely travelled Army Chief ever, having visited
over 20 countries during his three-year tenure.

Gen. Malik's visit to Rangoon is part of a recent
diplomatic initiative by India to develop a closer
relationship with the Burmese military establishment
which New Delhi had disregarded for decades. The
Burmese naval chief visited New Delhi early this year
as part of this détente and more reciprocal visits by
military officers are likely over the next few months,
principally to counter Chinese influence.

Beijing is helping Burma modernise its naval bases at
Hainggyi, the Coco's islands, Akyab and Mergui by
building radar, refit and refuel facilities that could
support Chinese submarine operations in the area. The
Chinese are also believed to be establishing a Signals
Intelligence facility on the Coco's islands, 30 km from
the Andamans, to monitor Indian missile tests off the
Orissa coast, an activity that has proliferated after
the 1998 nuclear tests.

Defence minister George Fernandes has declared that
Hianggyi base was a joint Sino-Burmese naval
establishment and that the Coco's islands had been
"loaned" to Beijing where missiles targeting India were
deployed. China is reportedly training Burmese naval
intelligence officials and helping Rangoon execute
surveys of its coastline contiguous to India.

New Delhi's fears over Beijing's ambitions in the
Indian Ocean region gained credence in 1994 after the
Coast Guard detained three Chinese trawlers with
Burmese flags that were equipped with sophisticated
tracking and surveying equipment and arrested the crews
for spying. Despite the Navy's protests, the crew was
released by the government a few months later under
pressure from Beijing ahead of the annual meeting of
the Sino-Indian Joint Working Group.

Chinese ambitions in the Indian ocean have led to India
wanting to raise the Navy's fourth command on the
Andamans with headquarters at Port Blair. The plan,
shelved due to a resource crunch and reluctance to
annoy Beijing, envisaged upgraded surveillance and
monitoring stations across the 750 km long Andaman and
Nicobar archipelago of 309 islands spanning 8,250 km
that is 1,200 km from the Indian mainland but
contiguous to the worrisome Chinese presence in Burma.

"Till now China has been a land neighbour but through
Burma it may soon become our maritime neighbour," a
naval officer said. Such moves by Beijing of encircling
India merit serious attention, he said.