NEW DELHI: In a major move that comes amidst the ongoing military confrontation in eastern Ladakh, India has handed over one of its diesel-electric submarines to Myanmar to counter China’s strategic inroads in the region.
Myanmar has commissioned the 3,000-tonne submarine INS Sindhuvir, rechristening it UMS Min Ye Thein Kha Thu, and even deployed it during the country’s “Bandoola” fleet exercise, which was inspected by commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Thursday.
TOI in December last year had reported that all decks had been cleared for Myanmar to commission INS Sindhuvir, with its sailors set to train in the complex art underwater combat operations on the submarine from March-April onwards this year.
The external affairs ministry on Thursday officially announced the decision to deliver INS Sindhuvir to Myanmar. The Russian-origin submarine is 31 years old but underwent an extensive refit and modernization upgrade at the Hindustan Shipyard Limited in Visakhapatnam last year.
“Cooperation in the maritime domain is a part of our diverse and enhanced engagement with Myanmar. This is in accordance with our vision of SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region, and also in line with our commitment to build capacities and self-reliance in all our neighbouring countries,” said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.
The announcement came after Army Chief General M M Naravane and foreign secretary Harsh Shringla visited Myanmar on October 4-5. India has already supplied a wide variety of military hardware and software to Myanmar, which ranges from Islander maritime patrol aircraft, naval gun-boats, light-weight torpedoes and radars to 105mm light artillery guns, mortars, night-vision devices, grenade-launchers and rifles, as earlier reported by TOI.
The submarine transfer is significant in the backdrop of China supplying two Ming-class diesel-electric submarines to Bangladesh in 2016. It will also deliver a Yuan-class submarine to Thailand in 2023, with two more to follow.
China, of course, is also going to supply Pakistan with eight Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines with air-independent propulsion for greater underwater endurance, four Type-054A multi-role stealth frigates and other naval platforms and weapons under deals worth over $7 billion from next year onwards.
India, of course, cannot match China, both in terms of economic muscle as well as a strong domestic defence production base. But New Delhi has slowly and steadily cranked up military ties with countries like Myanmar, which is the only ASEAN country with which India shares a 1,643-km land as well as a maritime border.
India now also regularly holds exercises, coordinated naval patrols and service-to-service staff talks with Myanmar. The Indian Navy has also been training Myanmar’s sailors at its submarine school INS Satavahana at Vizag as well as sending “mobile training teams” to Yangon for the last couple of years.
The armies from the two countries have also worked closely to smash several insurgent operating bases and apprehended dozens of militants along their borders under “Operation Sunrise” since January this year, as earlier reported by TOI.