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Ladakh: Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane with commanders and troops during his visit to review the security situation in Ladakh, Friday, Sept 4, 2020. (PTI Photo) (PTI04-09-2020_000166B) (PTI)
Ladakh: Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane with commanders and troops during his visit to review the security situation in Ladakh, Friday, Sept 4, 2020. (PTI Photo) (PTI04-09-2020_000166B) (PTI)

Mukund Naravane, Harsh Vardhan Shringla to travel to Myanmar for 2 days

The visit of Naravane and Shringla has sparked speculation that India could focus on reports of China arming the Arakan Army, an insurgent group in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

In a rare development, Indian Army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane will go for a two day visit to Myanmar on Sunday accompanied by Indian foriegn secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

During the 4-5 October visit, Naravane and Shringla will meet the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing among others, a statement from the Indian foriegn ministry said on Saturday.

While visits of the army chief and foreign secretary by themselves to countries neighbouring India are commonplace, the two teaming up for a visit is rare. CDS General Bipin Rawat and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval have visited Bhutan together in early 2018, months after the standoff between India and China on Bhutan’s Doklam plateau.

India's visit sparks speculation

The visit of Naravane and Shringla has sparked speculation that India could focus on reports of China arming the Arakan Army, an insurgent group in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

China is already involved in constructing infrastructure projects in Myanmar and other countries along India’s periphery, something New Delhi is watching with a wary eye.

The visit also comes against the backdrop of Bangladesh recently warning India of radicalisation of the Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh. The Rohingyas are seen as residents of Rakhine state in Myanmar but who are not recognised by the Buddhist majority in the country. Some 600,000 Rohingyas live in refugee camps in Bangladesh. On its part, India is speeding up the construction of houses in Rakhine state that would help the resettlement of Rohingyas once they return.

According to a statement from the Indian foriegn ministry, “India - Myanmar relations are historic, multifaceted and marked by mutual trust and respect. India attaches high priority to its relationship with Myanmar in accordance with its ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies. In the recent times, both sides have strengthened their cooperation in several areas, including connectivity and trade, development projects, energy, capacity building, defence and security and culture and people to people links."

“Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, few direct exchanges have taken place between the two sides. This visit will provide an opportunity to take stock of the existing bilateral ties and strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest," the Indian statement said.

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