US begins `calibrated` defence engagement with Myanmar

The United States has cautiously started to build military-to-military ties with the military of Myanmar, the Pentagon officials has said.

Washington: Well aware that the all-powerful Tatmadaw the Myanmar Armed Forces has a crucial role in the democratic reforms in the country, the United States has cautiously started to build military-to-military ties with the military of Myanmar, the Pentagon officials has said.

Given the serious concerns the United States has with the allegations of human rights violations by Tatmadaw, the engagement is primarily limited to non-military issues; and the pace and scope of the military-to-military engagement would depend on the progress made towards democratic reforms in this South East Asian nation.

"The United States is in the initial phase of a limited and calibrated defence engagement plan with Burma which is designed to promote the continuation of the reform movement in the country," Cathy Wilkinson, Pentagon spokesman told a news agency yesterday.

"In this first phase, which is primarily focused on human rights / rule of law and humanitarian assistance / disaster relief-type activities, we are looking for opportunities where Burmese defence officials can engage with US counterparts and gain exposure to international standards and norms of behaviour," she said.

The United States identifies Myanmar with its previous name Burma. The US is only the few countries of the world which still calls Myanmar as Burma.

"All activities in the engagement plan are carefully calibrated and scoped according to progress on democratic fronts by the Burmese military and the government. So far, initial activities have been limited to APCSS-sponsored events. Every request for participation undergoes a legal and policy review," Wilkinson said.

The Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) is a Department of Defence institute in Honolulu, Hawaii. APCSS addresses regional and global security issues, inviting military and civilian representatives of the United States and Asia-Pacific nations to its comprehensive program of executive education and workshops, both in Hawaii and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Among upcoming events that civilian officials are scheduled to attend are a multilateral workshop entitled `South Asia Leaders Water Security` to be held in Boston April 28-May 3. The participant from Burma is a civilian from their Department of Forestry`s Water Shed Management program.

Two Burmese officials are scheduled to participate in a multilateral workshop on Security Sector Development that focuses on security sector best practices, national security strategy and policy development and civil-military-police relations. This workshop is scheduled to take place at the APCSS in Honolulu July 29- August 2.

APCSS is currently conducting their Advanced Security Cooperation Course and attending the course is an ASEAN representative from Myanmar.

Also from July 8-12, Naypyidaw will host a multilateral regional security context workshop to focus on key features of the South East Asia security environment. The workshop is intended to promote Myanmar’s ability to effectively serve as ASEAN chair in 2014.