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India is geopolitically safe, strong and secure – Part II

India is geopolitically safe, strong and secure – Part II

<strong>Myanmar and India</strong>

India shares a 1,624 km border and maritime boundary of Bay of Bengal with Myanmar. Relations between the two are shaped in historical, ethnic, cultural, and religious moorings. Following the cataclysmic cyclone ‘Nargis’ which hit Myanmar in 2008, India offered relief material and assistance to Myanmar worth $1 million.

The two countries also carried out joint operations and destroyed militant camps of the Arakan Army on the border. The India-Myanmar border is porous and prone to insurgency, drugs, arms and counterfeit currency smuggling. It is also close to opium producing areas. For India, another concern is the influx of Rohingyas from Rakhine state – which can become a challenge to Indian security.

Relations between the two have been improving steadily. India is building the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport – a river road port cargo transport project to link Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and then from Myanmar's Kaladan river to North-Eastern states in India. From the military point of view, the two have been conducting Bilateral Army Exercises (IMBAX). Both countries are key partners in fighting insurgency and conducted exercise Sun Rise-I and Sun Rise-II in 2019 to destroy insurgent camps.

India and Myanmar also have an MoU on bilateral defence cooperation which will deepen military ties in the area of training, maritime security, and joint surveillance of the sea. From the Indian side, the border is guarded by Assam Rifles under the Army’s Eastern Command with headquarter at Kolkata. Myanmar is a key pillar of India in its Act East Policy but has to counter the Chinese influence in Myanmar which China is fostering on India's eastern neighbor.

<strong>Bangladesh and India</strong>

India shares a 4,156 km border with Bangladesh. India’s link with Bangladesh are civilisational, cultural, soci0-economic with a shared history and common heritage. Bangladesh owes its independence to Indian support in the Indo-Pak war of 1971. Both nations are members of SAARC, Bay of Bengal initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal Sri Lanka and Thailand, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Commonwealth.

Till 2011, Bangladesh was a hub of Islamic terror activities mainly from Pakistan as they found the Indo-Bangla border less guarded than the Indo-Pak border. Terrorists generally came from Harkat-ul-Islam, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) from Pakistan while Banga Sena and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami came from Bangladesh. They had their bases in the hilly tracts of Chittagong which has now been curtailed.

A recent cause of concern are the Rohingyas who are infiltrating in India through Bangladesh. The fear of ISI planting their agents through Rohingyas to radicalise Indian Muslim youth and sending militants in the garb of Rohingyas is worrisome for India. The BSF, the Eastern Command and Indian Navy are keeping a close watch on this. To further safeguard and strengthen our borders, many helipads have been ramped up and defence airstrips have been built bordering Bangladesh.

India has also signed a defence pact with Bangladesh to supply arms and ammunition to Bangladesh to reduce its dependency on China. The two nations will resume joint patrolling of borders to curb border crimes, reduce smuggling of cattle, weapons, and narcotics. In nutshell, India is in a comfortable security situation and faces no security threat from Bangladesh.

<strong>Sri Lanka and India</strong>

The island country is just 27 km from Tamil Nandu’s Dhanushkodi to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. India- Sri Lanka relations are more than 2,500 years old owning to a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious, linguistic relationship along with a common maritime border. Both sides occupy strategic positions in South Asia and have agreed to build a security umbrella in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka’s location in the region has strategic geopolitical relevance to several major powers due to which the UK and USSR have maritime agreements with the country.

In 1993, the US chose Sri Lanka to build a Voice of America transmission. China too has built state of the art ports all along the Indian Ocean to South of China under its string of pearls policy to encircle India. The Chinese ports are in Gwadar, Pakistan; Chittagong, Bangladesh; Kyaukphyu, Myanmar and Hambantota in Sri Lanka. India is alive to this Chinese strategy and is building the Trincomalee port now. India and Sri Lanka have strengthened military ties by conducting joint military exercise, Mitra Shakti, and naval exercise, SLINEX. A trilateral maritime military cooperation has been signed between India, Sri Lanka and Maldives to improve sea surveillance.

On the economy front, India and Sri Lanka have a free trade agreement known as Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA) and Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement (CEPA). The Sri Lankan President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, recently said the country will follow an India first policy and cannot afford to be a strategic security threat to India. Even the Sri Lankan Chief of Army Staff said the decision to give Hambantota port for 99 years lease to China was a mistake.

<strong>Maldives and India</strong>

Maldives is the smallest Asian country in the middle of the Indian Ocean measuring about 298 sq km with approximately 1,190 coral islands spread over 90,000 sq km. It is situated at a crucial geostrategic location as it sits on major sea lanes, which has aroused the interest of world powers. India shares a maritime border with Maldives and has friendly and close strategic, economic and military relations. The two nations also have an MoU, ‘white shipping information’ between the Indian Navy and the Maldives National Defence Forces for sharing information about commercial and military vessels movement.

Another MoU has been signed between Maldives and India covering hydrography, health, passenger, and cargo ships. Maldives is important for India because ships carrying oil supplies to China, Japan and India pass through Maldivian waters. India and Maldives carry out military exercise since 2009 known as ‘Ekuverin’. Military teams from Maldives are invited to visit tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command to familiarize them about security concerns and coordination.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih jointly inaugurated a Coastal Surveillance Radar System (CSRS) and composite training facility for Maldives Defence Forces at Maafilaafushi island in the Maldives. In 1988, India quelled an attempted coup by acting upon a request from Maldivian President and sending paratroopers and naval warships under Operation Cactus. This support was appreciated by world leaders.

On 20 September 2020, India sent $US 250 million assistance to Maldives on request from their President. India is worried Chinese inroads in Maldives under their string of pearls policy. However, from a security point of view, India faces no problem from the Maldives.

A sound visionary foreign policy and military planning on part of the government will keep India safe and secure. The tri-service command at Andaman and Nicobar is fully equipped with warplanes loaded with latest missiles; the Navy has its compliment of warships, frigates and nuclear-powered submarines to safeguard our sea routes. We can deny entry to China in the Arabian Sea, Andaman Sea, Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, and the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

<strong>Strong foreign policy supplements military</strong>

Thanks to our foreign policy, India today has worldwide support of all major countries of the world who are economically and militarily strong.

The recently added omni-role Rafale have started flying over Ladakh. They have conducted familiarization sorties on our northern borders and have a range of 1,650 km without mid-air refueling. They are fitted with 300 km Scalp air-to-surface cruise missiles and the Meteor air-to-air missiles with a range of 150 km plus other armaments. The Rafales will prove a death knell for Pak and Chinese F-16, JF-17 and J-20. Besides the Rafale, we have currently deployed frontline fighters planes like Sukhoi-30MK1 , Mirage 2000, MIG -29 fighters as well as Chinook helicopters possessing heavy air lift capability and Apache attack helicopter in Ladakh.

With our agile, well prepared and highly motivated armed forces including paramilitary forces coupled with our sound defence and foreign policies, India is safe and secure..