Myanmar- India relations

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.



Myanmar, militias ink peace pact with India as witness

February 14, 2018: The Times of India

As a sign of its support to the ongoing peace process in Myanmar, India was among the countries which attended as international witnesses the signing of a National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) between Myanmar and two ethnic armed groups in Naypyitaw on Tuesday.

The government said in a statement that India supported the Myanmar peace process and that comprehensive peace and national reconciliation in Myanmar will also be conducive for the peace and prosperity of India’s northeastern states.

“Given the positive bilateral relationship between India and Myanmar and the significance for India of the Myanmar peace process, Myanmar had earlier invited India (together with China, Japan, Thailand, the UN and the EU) to sign the NCA as international witnesses in October 2015,’’ said MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar.

“NSA Ajit Doval had represented India on that occasion. Today’s event is another step in the process with two more parties, the NMSP (New Mon State Party) and the LDU (Lahu Democratic Union), agreeing to sign the NCA. The presence of our representative demonstrates India’s continued support to the peace process in Myanmar,” he added. India’s deputy NSA Rajinder Khanna attended the ceremony.

News agency Reuters reported that NMSP and LDU signed the NCA after meeting Suu Kyi and the military’s commander-in-chief, senior general Min Aung Hlaing, in Naypyitaw last month. “At least 10 rebel groups have not joined the NCA, an accord negotiated by the previous quasi-civilian administration. Suu Kyi has opened a new round of talks with some of the groups since last May,” said the report.

In 2015 too, India had attended the signing of a deal as a witness, together with China, Japan, Thailand, the UN and the EU


India- Myanmar ink defence pact; armies work together

Armies working together, India & Myanmar ink defence pact, July 30, 2019: The Times of India

India and Myanmar on Monday inked a pact to boost their bilateral defence cooperation, which comes even as the armies from the two countries are conducting coordinated operations along their borders to flush out insurgent groups.

The MoU on defence cooperation was signed after the visiting commander-in-chief of the defence services of Myanmar, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, held delegation-level talks with minister of state for defence Shripad Yesso Naik here.

“The talks were aimed at enhancing defence co-operation, joint exercises and training provided to Myanmar defence services as well as strengthening maritime security by joint surveillance and capacity building, among other issues,” said an official.

The Myanmar chief also held talks with IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, Army chief General Bipin Rawat and Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh. “Myanmar is a key pillar of India’s Act East policy towards prioritising relations with its East Asian neighbours,” said the official.

India has also stepped-up its military training and supplies to Myanmar in recent years to counter China’s strategic inroads into the country. The two armies have also smashed several insurgent operating bases and apprehended dozens of militants along their borders under “Operation Sunrise” underway since January this year, as was reported.

Smuggled gold

Prabin Kalita, Guns earlier, now gold smuggled from Myanmar is worrying India, June 29, 2019: The Times of India

45% Of The Shiny Metal Brought Into Country Illegally From This Passage

When militant outfits in the northeast started laying down arms five-six years ago, the parallel economy that depended on them took a hit. Arms smuggling had been big across the India-Myanmar border. The routes were in place. So were the networks of carriers. All that was needed was a new product. So a switch was made — from AK-47s to gold.

“Gold is the biggest contraband from Myanmar,” T Bijando Singh, superintendent of the Imphal division of customs and stationed at Moreh along the Myanmar border, told TOI. Gold enters India as biscuits, each weighing 166g and with no mark of origin, from deposits in Kachin and Kayin states and the four regions of Mandalay, Sagaing, Bago and Tanintharyi. “Gold consignments change hands quickly,” Singh said.

The first stop is Imphal, from where gold is sent out — by road through Dimapur in Nagaland or Silchar in Assam and then by rail or air to Kolkata or New Delhi. From these points, it is distributed to other parts of India. Most gold seizures by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) have been from Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi, which are big consumption centres of smuggled gold. And the gold is of high quality — with a purity of 99.76%.

Customs seized 3,223 kg gold worth Rs 974 crore in 2017-18. A DRI report adds that smuggled gold that ends up being seized accounts for just 5-10% of the total illegal trade – which means that even by conservative estimates the gold smuggling market in India is worth at least Rs 9,000 crore.

Driving this gold rush are three factors. Myanmar’s gold is cheaper, at least Rs 400-500 lower per gram than Indian gold. Import duties in India are high — 10% customs duty and 3% GST. And while Myanmar does not allow trade of gold in its native form, the product’s demand is the highest in India. Sources say a share of the gold exported by India to the Middle East is from the stash originally smuggled in from Myanmar.

India and Myanmar share a 1,643-km-long border, along four Indian states – Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Two routes that cut through this border — the old Tamu-Moreh-Imphal trajectory in Manipur, which goes through a vast expanse of unguarded but inaccessible area, and the Zokhatwar route in Mizoram — are popular for trade and transit, both legal and illegal. On the route from Tamu in Myanmar to Moreh in Manipur, there is a security check post every 30 km from Moreh to Imphal. Yet, all smuggling cartels prefer the Moreh route.

It’s not surprising. For decades, sleepy Moreh has existed on two planes – one of aspiration and another reality. Given its location, along the India-Myanmar border, it has been the springboard for the government’s grand plans of cross-border economic diplomacy with southeast Asia. On the ground, however, the only flourishing economic activity remains smuggling.

“Moreh is the favoured entry point for contraband from Myanmar. It is helped by low-rung officials of the Myanmar army which, in turn, is controlled by the country’s ethnic armed groups,” said brigadier (retired) Ranjit Borthakur, an intelligence expert. It’s also a source of employment. “Most carriers are locals. The rest are from northern India, most from Rajasthan and nearby areas.”

Myanmar lies at the crossroad between China, India and southeast Asia — right in the middle of the points of supply and demand for objects as innocuous as cheap cigarettes to “exotic” animals and, a surprise entrant, highend drones. Smuggling trails over the past year have led as far as Chennai, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad — and these are only the points up to which DRI has been able to trace the network.

An enduring contraband has been drugs. From high-grade heroin to low-grade brown sugar, synthetic party drugs like ‘World is Yours’ and ‘Yaba’, the source is the infamous Golden Triangle of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, known locally as Sop Ruak. A reverse flow is flourishing as well. “We have information that the village of Joupi (close to Myanmar) has turned into a poppy cultivation ground. Heroin from these farms is being smuggled into Myanmar,” a security official associated with counter-insurgency operations said.

What makes smuggling so easy? For starters, the Free Movement Regime between India and Myanmar allows people along the border to travel up to 16 km on either side without visa restrictions. As the two countries are not hostile neighbours, presence of border forces is sporadic along a boundary that’s demarcated but unfenced. Finally, there is the difficult terrain – which locals do not find hard to negotiate.

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