The government’s ‘Act East’ policy gathers steam
Prasun K. Sengupta
Between May till September this year, there was a flurry of military diplomacy undertaken by both India and Myanmar, which began with the Indian Army’s Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. Bipin Rawat, undertaking a four-day visit to Yangon from May 28 to 31.
This was followed by the eight-day visit to India by the Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar’s armed forces (Tatmadaw), Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, starting July 7, which saw India going all out to make his visit a resounding success with top-level meetings, visits to various military and military-industrial establishments and a series of banquets. Next to arrive was the Commander-in Chief of the Union of Myanmar Air Force, Gen. Khin Aung Myint, on August 21, following which the Commander-in-Chief of the Union of Myanmar Navy, Admiral Tin Aung, came calling on September 22.
These visits are not unusual when one considers the increasing quantum of military-industrial cooperation that has been underway between the two countries since 2006. For instance, it was in August 2006 that the first two of four ex-Indian Navy Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander maritime surveillance/air ambulance aircraft was supplied to the Union of Myanmar Navy. Another two were delivered in May 2007. This was followed on 24 July 2013 by the Indian Army’s Dimapur-based III ‘Spear’ Corps handing over to its Myanmarese counterpart construction materials for seven bailey bridges at the Leimakhong Military Bastion.
In October the same year, the Union of Myanmar Navy inked a deal with India’s state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) for procuring three units of the ‘Abhay’ low-frequency hull-mounted panoramic sonar suite that was developed by the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Kochi-based Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory, plus BEL-built RAWL-02 Mk.3 (licence-built THALES Nederland LW-08) L-band 2-D shipborne search radars and Lynx UX multi-sensor fire-control systems. In November 2013 the DRDO’s Institute for Systems Studies and Analyses (ISSA) took up the task of customising its in-house Infantry Company Commander Tactical Trainer (INFCOTT) software for the Union of Myanmar Army. As a result, the ISSA developed and delivered two war-gaming software packages called ‘combat decision resolution’ and ‘infantry company commander’s tactical trainer’.
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