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Friday, 7 January, 2000, 12:11 GMT
India seeks Burma border help

Burmese military leaders Delhi is coming to terms with Burma's generals


By Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta

The Chief of the Indian Army, General Ved Prakash Malik, is in Burma to explore possible joint military operations against ethnic rebel groups operating along the border between the two countries.

Delhi has had some reservations about Burma's military regime, but is now coming to terms with what Indian foreign ministry officials described as "realities on the ground."


General V P Malik General Malik: Discussing border security

At the peak of the anti-military uprising led by Aung Sang Suu Kyi, India came out in open support of the cause of democracy in Burma.

That upset the government in Rangoon, but inspired hundreds of Burmese pro-democracy activists to take shelter in India.

Reassessment

But after the military suppressed the uprising and established close relations with China, India began a reassessment of its Burma policy.

In 1995, Delhi tried to co-ordinate a joint military operation against a column of nearly 200 rebels from north-east India who were trying to enter the country from Burma after having picked up a huge assortment of weapons on the Arakan coast.

But the Burmese government backed out halfway into the operation when Delhi awarded the Nehru Peace Prize to Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

Though the Indian army is largely apolitical unlike its counterparts in Pakistan and Burma, it is increasingly resentful of what it sees as the inept handling of national security issues by the political leadership.

Army leaders believe that they should be involved in making policy regarding national security. The three services - the land army, the navy and the air force - have been openly critical of Delhi's decision to trade off three Kashmiri militants for the hijack hostages in Kandahar.

Insurgency fears

Observers say that India is trying to develop close relations with its neighbours - not least because of the activities of anti-government insurgents along its borders.

Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh have been under pressure from Delhi to tackle militants and so-called Pakistani agents who, Delhi says, are active in those countries.

India has never made such allegations against Burma, but it is keen to get Burmese support to crush ethnic rebellions active on the borders of the two countries.

Observers say that if General Malik could manage to get his Burmese counterpart to agree to joint military operations against these rebels, he would have achieved much of Delhi's perceived strategic objectives in the east.

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See also:
20 Aug 99 |  South Asia
Burmese refugees flee to India
02 Mar 99 |  South Asia
India finds forest graves
18 Dec 98 |  South Asia
Bid to boost South Asian trade
25 Nov 98 |  South Asia
Rohingya refugees return to Burma

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