New Delhi: Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor will on Sunday begin a three-day visit to Myanmar to nurture direct military-to-military ties with the neighbour on the eastern flank.
"The Army Chief will be on a three-day visit to Myanmar. We have always had close ties with our counterparts in Myanmar. There have been cooperation in counter-insurgency training and all," a senior Indian Army official said, requesting anonymity.
Myanmar, second largest of India`s neighbours on the east, is important for the realisation of the country`s Look East policy since China has always tried to bring Myanmar within its own strategic embrace.
Kapoor`s visit comes at a time when China has announced construction of a rail link up to the Myanmar border. The move has raised concerns in the Indian armed forces as it would give China a route for transporting reinforcements in case of confrontation with India.
Earlier also there have been high level visits between chiefs of the armed forces of the two countries.
The then Indian Army chief`s visit in November 2005 was followed by the visit of then Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash in January 2006.
In February 2005, Myanmar Navy chief Vice Admiral Soe Thein visited India. Two Indian warships visited Yangon to participate in some basic exercises with the Myanmar Navy December 22-26, 2005.
A corvette of the Myanmar Navy participated in the multi-nation exercise Milan-06 off the Andaman coast January 9-14, 2006.
India has also shown keenness to supply naval hardware to Myanmar. During former navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta`s visit to Yangon in 2007, India agreed to supply three Islander aircraft to Myanmar.
Myanmar has geo-strategic importance to India as it provides China an access to the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean Region and to Strait of Malacca from where most of its energy supplies are routed. Still, military cooperation between India and Myanmar pales in comparison to its ties with China.
China is providing major assistance in the modernization of naval facilities at Akyab (Sittwe), Mergui, Hanggyi Islands and Great Coco Islands.
Myanmar is presently ruled by a military junta and faces US sanctions because of alleged human rights violation and suppression of pro-democracy activists.