India tells Tatmadaw chief it wants to strengthen defence cooperation

India wants to strengthen military cooperation with Myanmar as part of an upgrade of bilateral relations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Tatmadaw chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in New Delhi on July 14, media reports said.

Myanmar was “a key pillar” of India’s Act East policy of prioritising relations with its East Asian neighbours, Modi said at a meeting with Min Aung Hlaing on the last day of his second visit to India in two years.

Modi assured Min Aung Hlaing that India would step up military ties, ranging from arms supplies to joint exercises, as part of the overall thrust to upgrade defence, diplomatic and economic relations, the Times of India reported.

At a meeting also attended by the defence minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, the daily quoted Modi as telling Min Aung Hlaing that he appreciated the defence and security cooperation between the two countries.

The Deccan Herald newspaper said the meeting with Modi and Jaitley came amid “the backdrop of China’s increased belligerence along the border as India looks for allies in its eastern neighbourhood”.

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Min Aung Hlaing visited a number of defence establishments in India during a visit that began on July 7 when he arrived at Bodh Gaya, where Buddha gained enlightenment.

India’s army chief, General Bipin Rawat, hosted a dinner in Min Aung Hlaing’s honour that evening at the Officer’s Training Academy at nearby Gaya.

The Tatmadaw commander-in-chief also held talks during his visit with national security advisor Mr Ajit Doval, and navy chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba.

India has steadily increased defence cooperation with Myanmar in recent years. The two sides are reported to have recently concluded a US$37.9 million deal for India to supply Myanmar with lightweight torpedoes.

In a separate development, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wrote to Modi last week to express condolences over the killing of seven Hindu pilgrims by suspected militants on July 10.

The Hindus were making a pilgrimage to the Amarnath temple in the Himalayas in troubled Jammu and Kashmir State when they were attacked.

Those killed included six women, reports said.

In a July 13 message issued on behalf of the government and herself, the State Counsellor “offered deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the Prime Minister of India and to the People of India, especially to the bereaved families”.

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