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Opinion

India’s Act East Kilo Class diplomacy

The transfer of INS Sindhuvir, a Kilo Class submarine which was commissioned in the Indian Navy in 1987, to the Myanmar Navy is a very significant milestone in India’s diplomatic quest to contain the Chinese influence in our area of influence. Like in Jammu and Kashmir, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru made a great blunder in his acquiescence of the transfer of the Coco group of islands, part of the archipelago of the Andaman Islands, to Burma at the time of independence. We had a very strong case to include this island group just to the North of Andaman Islands, as part of the territories in the Independence Act of India.

Fortunately, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel took charge in as far as the issue of the inclusion of Laccadives Lakshadweep) and the Andaman & Nicobar group of Islands into the Indian Union was concerned. Left to Nehru, we would have lost these strategically placed territories also as a certain influential group in British Parliament intended. To compound this mistake, Nehru also did not pay adequate attention the South East Asian rim countries as compared to the Arab countries in the Middle-East, despite the fact that in most of the South-East Asian countries a strong Indian cultural ethos was prevalent. We had to pay severely for these blunders as the Chinese spread their tentacles in this vital region.

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Starting with PV Narsimha Rao, who initiated the ‘Look East’ policy in earnest after the end of Cold War, a course correction was put into motion which is being carried forward with through the ‘Act East’ policy of the present Modi led dispensation. We have covered some distance in reclaiming influence in this region, which is vital to our strategic interests. Transfer of INS Sindhuvir to Myanmar Navy to enable to form its own submarine arm is a step in this direction. The training of the crew was done in INS Satavahana in Visakhapatnam. Our Navy has also offered the Principal Control Officer’s and the Commanding Officer’s qualifying courses to the Vietnamese Navy which has acquired six Kilo Class submarines from Russia. We are also supplying submarine batteries to them. Building stakes in these countries will go some distance in restricting the influence of the Dragon in this region.

The Chinese have built surveillance facilities in the Coco Islands which are detrimental to our interests and activities in the North Andaman Sea. It is believed that the Chinese have leased these islands but the same is denied by the Government of Myanmar. To wean away Myanmar from the Chinese cloak, a slew of measures has been taken by the Government of India in recent past. These are in economic, infrastructure, and commerce sectors. We have built homes for the Rohingya refugees in the Rakhine region and also pledged US $ 25 MN for their rehabilitation. Another US $ 5MN has been provided for border development with India. Debt relief under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative to mitigate the adverse fallout due to COVID-19 is also being rendered. In recent talks between the two countries, India has offered to co-operate in a wide array of fields such as trade, investments power & energy and cultural sectors. We have also provided restoration works after the recent earthquake which had caused severe damages in Bagan.

Starting of the Submarine Arm of the Myanmar Navy thus is an important milestone in the journey of India’s ‘Act East’ policy. We must also extend this to the surface dimension of their navy.

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India's Act East Kilo Class diplomacy
Written By

Cmde Arun Kumar (Retd)

Cmde Arun Kumar graduated from the National Defence Academy in Dec 1971 and was joined the Navy in 1973. He joined the submarine arm in 1975. He was part of the commissioning crew of India's first nuclear submarine INS Chakra. He served on Chakra as the operations officer and later the executive officer. He has held many important land and sea-based positions of the Indian Navy. He also graduated from Defence Services Staff College and Naval Higher Command Courses with distinction. His last appointment was Principal Director Submarine Acquisition (PDSMAQ) at the NHQ. He was decorated twice by the President of India with Nausena Medal and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal.

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