India Markets open in 1 hr 6 mins

Act East Policy: India gives Myanmar Kilo Class submarine and trains their sailors

Huma Siddiqui
Act East Policy, Myanmar Navy, Myanmar maritime boundary, Russia, indian navy, INS Sindhuvir, Hindustan Shipyard Limited, maritime engagements, SAGAR

The Myanmar Navy has acquired a diesel-electric Kilo Class submarine from India which will be deployed in the Andaman Sea and will become operational next week on December 24 for safeguarding its maritime interests. For India, Myanmar is one of the strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km border with the north-eastern states, including Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur. There is a 725-km India-Myanmar maritime boundary.

According to sources, this is going to be used primarily for training purposes by the Myanmar Navy and this submarine can stay underwater for around 45 days. The Navy of the neighbouring country is expected to soon acquire their own submarine fleet from Russia.

"Sailors of the Myanmar Navy will get their training in the underwater combat operations between March-April 2020 on INS Sindhuvir with the help of Indian Navy."

The Russian refitted Kilo-class INS Sindhuvir known for its noiseless operational capability was entered the Indian Navy in the 1980s and has since then been modernised by the Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) in Vizag. It has a displacement of 3,000 tonnes and can be equipped with various types of weapons. It can carry 52 personnel and can go to a depth of 300 meters.

Growing Military Relations

As part of an export deal worth $37.9 million signed in 2017 between the two countries, India has recently delivered the first batch of Advanced Light Torpedo (TAL) `Shyena' to Yangon. The Torpedoes have been manufactured by state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), and Larsen & Toubro is the integrator with the launcher systems.

Made in India `Shyena' is lightweight anti-submarine torpedo, which has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)'s Naval Science and Technological Laboratory.

Besides the submarine and torpedoes, India has supplied other military equipment including acoustic drones, and naval sonars.

Neighbours watching

As part of India's Act East Policy, there have been regular maritime engagements with the navies in the region. Both Bangladesh and Thailand is keeping a watch as they both have maritime borders with Myanmar.

Bangladesh has been taking help from the Chinese side for building their first submarine base at Cox's Bazaar and Rabnabad. Bangladesh Navy has bought two Ming-class subs and four corvettes from Beijing.

The Navy of Thailand will be getting three Chinese-made submarines for their underwater fleet-while one has been delivered the other two are expected to join in a few years.

India-Myanmar Maritime Cooperation

In March 2018, the two countries carried out their first-ever bilateral naval exercise, IMNEX-18, in the Bay of Bengal. The navy of the neighbouring country has also participated in the biennial, Milan naval exercise.

To enhance maritime security cooperation, both sides have signed an agreement in 2017.

Work is on from the Indian side on the development of the Sittwe port in Myanmar, as well as the $484m Kaladan transport project, which will connect Mizoram and Myanmar.

As a tool of Naval Diplomacy, the Indian Navy started CORPAT with Myanmar in March 2013. India carries out CORPAT with four other regional navies including Indonesia, Thailand and, most recently, Bangladesh.

CORPAT fits into New Delhi's SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and its "Look East" and "Act East" policies.

Expert view

India has managed to outsmart China by not only training the sailors of Myanmar Navy but also giving the Russian INS Sindhuvir through the Line of Credit (LOC) which India has extended for further strengthening the military capability of that country.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a top officer said that "While this will be of huge strategic gain for the country, China has already made inroads in the neighbouring country's strategic infrastructure projects such as highways; ports oil pipelines etc., by providing military and techno-financial aid."

India has taken Russia's permission before sending the submarine to Myanmar as there is an end-user agreement in place.

Russia also stands to benefit since through this sale/ transfer, as they get a potential customer in the region.