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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Indian army chief in Burma
Burmese Generals
India wants closer ties with Burma's military leaders
By South Asia analyst Larry Jagan

India's army chief General Ved Prakash Malik is in Burma on an official four-day visit.

General Malik is expected to meet Burma's head of state, General Than Shwe on Tuesday.

He is also expected to discuss closer co-operation on cross-border military operation with his Burmese counter-part General Maung Aye.

The Indian military delegation's visit coincides with a trip by Burma's military intelligence chief Lt General Khin Nyunt, to Pakistan.

Malik's second trip

This is General Malik's second visit to Burma within six months.

General V P Malik
General Malik will discuss border security
During his first visit in January, he had discussed concrete plans on how to curb cross-border insurgency.

Indian defence officials say the current visit is aimed at clarifying the finer points in these plans.

Delhi has long been concerned that several of the insurgent groups active in India's north east have bases inside Burma.

Last year, India and Burma signed an agreement to control cross-border militancy, drug trafficking and smuggling.

Now the army chiefs of the two countries are finalising plans to make this agreement operational.

Chinese influence

In the past five years, India has tried to improve relations with Burma's military rulers.

Although Delhi wants to see Burma become a multi-party democracy as soon as possible, it has been concerned for some time now about Beijing's increasing influence in Burma.

To try to counter that, Delhi felt it had no alternative but to develop closer ties with Rangoon.

During General Maung Aye's visit to India in January military co-operation between the countries - to combat cross-border insurgents and drug traffickers - was discussed at length.

Drugs being burnt
Combatting drug-trafficking is high on the agenda
Indian officials say Delhi has been supplying Burma with non-lethal military equipment in return, including boots and combat gear.

Burma is particularly keen to find other sources of military equipment.

Diplomats in Rangoon believe that General Maung Aye and others in the army are concerned that they are too dependent on China for their arms supplies.

Burma and Pakistan

This also appears to be the main reason behind the intelligence chief, Lt General Khin Nyunt's trip to Islamabad.

Lt General Khin Nyunt
Burma's military intelligence chief is visiting Pakistan
Pakistan is already training Burmese military personnel, particularly pilots, and is supplying machine guns and ammunition.

China used to train the Burmese airforce and is still the country's major supplier of ammunition.

By switching some of their sources of military aid from China to Pakistan, diplomats in Rangoon say Burma's military leaders hope to reduce its dependence on China.

This may have the approval of Beijing, since China has a close relationship with Pakistan.

The fact that General Maung Aye is hosting his Indian counterpart at the same time as Lt General Khin Nyunt is in Pakistan suggests that Rangoon is sensitive to India's likely concerns.

But it may also reflect a growing tension within the Burmese military leadership about the country's international ties, particularly towards its two big neighbours China and India.

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See also:

07 Jan 00 | South Asia
India seeks Burma border help
20 Aug 99 | South Asia
Burmese refugees flee to India
03 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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