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Chinese Armed Submarines: How China Is Using Myanmar against India


China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has handed over a former attack submarine to Myanmar in the first transfer of equipment of this caliber between the two countries. Type 035 or Ming-Class submarine’s induction brings Myanmar’s maritime defense line to two formidable warships. In 2020, Myanmar received delivery of a Russian-erected Project 877 Kilo-class boat from neighboring India. According to an advertisement from Myanmar’s service, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s service and leader of the military government that took power in February following an achievement, attended a December 24 commissioning form for the submarine.

The date coincided with the 74th anniversary of the caravan. In addition, the submarine also saw the induction of the Inlay-class Offshore Patrol Vessel UMS Inwa, two 18-cadence riverine fast attack craft, and four 20m riverine command boats. The English-language news site Irrawaddy, which mainly covers the news from Myanmar, reported that the recently inducted submarine’s role would be an attack submarine and a training vessel. A Type 035 submarine floating with a flying China flag was thought to be from Myanmar and was seen floating in the Singapore Strait last December. After some days, a video showing a submarine sailing up to Yangon River, overlooked by a Myanmar Navy Type 5 attack craft was shared on social media.

Further details about the transfer of the submarine haven’t been made available. Initially, China leased two revamped Type 035G submarines to Bangladesh and the newly built S26T submarine to Thailand. China is a crucial arms supplier to Myanmar. Myanmar’s cortege is equipped with a Chinese-made C-802 anti-ship bullet, while its air force operates several Chinese-erected aircraft, including the Chengdu JF-17 Thunder fighter spurt and Shaanxi Y-8 transport. The nuclear submarine agreement is a significant demonstration that China is relatively increasing its support for Myanmar’s military government, which has cracked down on ongoing demurrers but is facing a growing fortified insurrection fueled by opposition to the military government.

China – Myanmar Relations:

While Western nations condemn the military achievement in Myanmar, India is taking a conservative approach as it bolsters its connectivity to Southeast Asia and attempts to check China’s influence. Myanmar and India have hundreds of KM of the border, which gives India a gateway to a relatively less profitable route with Southeast Asia. Similarly, the country is pivotal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act East policy. The neighbors also partake in a 725 km boundary in the Bay of Bengal, where India aims to boost maritime security cooperation with Myanmar and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as part of broader trouble under the quadrilateral security dialogue. The U.S., Japan, and Australia are also involved in what’s better known as the Quad, which is designed to contain Chinese influence.

India responded to the February 1 achievement in a guarded fashion. The Ministry of External Affairs issued a 46-word statement that same day saying it had taken note of the developments with “deep concern” and venting “support to the process of popular transition.” During a Quadrangle foreign ministers’ meeting, India released a statement stressing the significance of Myanmar keeping the rule of law and transitioning to a republic.

Myanmar – India Relations:

Myanmar has been in fermentation since February 2021 when the military seized control of the country in achievement and detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD). India had been categorical from the very morning that the earnings made by Myanmar over the last decades on the path towards republic shouldn’t be undermined. Before this month, after Suu Kyi was doomed to four times (latterly reduced to two times) in jail for provoking dissent against the service and violating Covid-19 rules, New Delhi responded by expressing its “deep concern” over “any development that undermines these processes and accentuates differences.” It said it’s a stopgap that “keeping the nation’s future in view, sacrifices need to be made by all parties to advance the path of dialogue.”

But for India, challenges expiring from Myanmar and touching areas don’t cease depending upon the complexion of the government. And direct contact with the State Administration Council (SAC) and other players can no longer be halted. Last month’s deadly attack on an Assam Rifles convoy near the Myanmar border in Manipur was a memorial about the preference of China for creating trouble in the Northeast, especially when border pressures along the LAC remain high. The Covid-19 epidemic has also had an impact because of the previous border between India and Myanmar. For India, a philanthropic extremity resulting from the epidemic-convinced profitable extremity in Myanmar would be a lose-lose situation, and it should be averted with the utmost urgency.

As the only major famous country skirting Myanmar, India should contend on provable progress on the road to widespread transition. Still, being a neighbor, it’s also apprehensive that Myanmar has not responded well to international pressures. The role of Myanmar’s military would be vital in the unfolding of any widespread transition there so that an active engagement would be demanded. Indeed as it continues to call for a restoration of the popular process, both bilaterally and at colorful multinational fora, New Delhi has to engage with the army in Myanmar to address Indian enterprises as well as to make it a stakeholder that can deliver on the popular front, including the release of political captures. Marginalizing the army will only push it into China’s arms, which has benefits and defense interests to secure from Naypyidaw. Since the achievement, China’s good grip over Myanmar has only come tighter with a particular focus on systems critical for the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.

China’s Increased Role in Myanmar:

While the West continues to condemn and permission, China invests and pulls Myanmar into its route. The U.S. has continued to use the overused trouble of further warrants, though to little mileage. The Army of Myanmar seems to have ceased bothering about the rhetoric coming from the West. The neighboring countries have to shape the geste of the military galère constructively. It isn’t surprising that countries like Japan, South Korea, and utmost ASEAN members have all moved forward with engaging the military galère in Myanmar. The Cambodian high minister, the incoming President of the ASEAN, is listed to visit Myanmar this coming month and will likely set new engagement terms.

It is, thus, imperative that New Delhi too reaches out and shapes its line in Myanmar. The foreign secretary’s visit will allow him to meet the main political parties to understand their prospects from the world’s largest republic. He works with the military authorities to ensure that the popular process gets off the ground at the foremost. In transnational relations, black and white binaries no way really work. The complexity of India’s indigenous security and neighborhood demands that India borrow a different nuanced position on Myanmar. New Delhi shouldn’t lose its essential pragmatism in engaging Myanmar.

Myanmar’s military governance pushes China to renew some stalled structure systems, including railroads, anchorages, and power sectors, and accelerate bilateral cooperation. In a joint statement issued in December, the galère’s ministry of information and investment and good foreign relations said Myanmar enjoys a special ‘pauk phaw’ or association with Beijing after 71 times of bilateral ties. The statement coincided with the Indian foreign secretary starting the first high-position visit from India since the February 1 army preemption. Sources said that issuing a statement on China coinciding with the Indian foreign secretary’s visit is an attempt by the galère to communicate to the transnational community, particularly the West, that both India and China are courting the governance and that it isn’t insulated.

The Indian foreign secretary, while pitching for the return of the republic at the foremost, also held a wide-ranging dialogue on security and development cooperation. Sources explained that for India, being a republic, it’s a delicate balance between addressing the bourne of youth and dealing with galère. The galère also said it would pilot accepting China’s currency, the Renminbi, as a sanctioned agreement currency for border trade starting coming time. China has made significant raids in northern Myanmar. Beijing remains cautious of adding FDI in Myanmar, following anti-Chinese screams and insecurity in the country.

Claiming that normality is returning to Myanmar, the galère said in its statement that the perpetration of several standard systems with China is a significant precedent for Myanmar, following the dislocations caused by the epidemic and recent social uneasiness. This is in discrepancy with the Myanmar Army’s position before the February 1 preemption. The army’s caution of China’s BRI systems shaped the government’s decision to limit the compass of several techniques. Still, notwithstanding the galère’s outreach, Beijing remains cautious about continuing full cooperation with Myanmar after the wide anti-China demurrers that followed the preemption and posterior attacks on Chinese-possessed factories in Yangon.

In the joint statement, the galère claimed that the government has bettered security and handed backing to Chinese-possessed manufacturers attacked by mercenary resistance fighters. It also said that similar attacks had declined sprucely, so the government is confident that the situations for China’s investments in Myanmar will soon lessen. The galère’s governing body, the State Administration Council, chaired by Senior General (S.R.) Min Aung Hlaing has reviewed and revised profitable bilateral systems to prioritize its plans for promising recovery as Myanmar prepares for a new election listed to be held by August 2023, the statement said. “Myanmar would evaluate all foreign direct investments, including those from China, and will not exclude any of them. We also look forward to enhanced border trade through the RMB-kyat deal,” the minister of investment and profitable foreign relations, Aung Naing Oo, said in the statement.

A couple of months ago, Min Aung Hlaing had comforted Beijing that his governance would cover foreign-funded enterprises in the country, including Chinese bones, amid the chaos caused by his achievement. “We’ll welcome all foreign-funded investments (in Myanmar),” he told Hong Kong-grounded Phoenix Television, adding that the people of Myanmar aren’t anti-China. In his interview with the pro-China TVT, Hlaing said that the assaults on China-funded installations aren’t a result of anti-China sentiment in Myanmar and slammed it on the current political situation. But Chinese are nonetheless concerned about the potential attacks and the effect on public emotions in Myanmar if the galère restarts the systems.

Still, China is ready to renew development and structure systems if and when stability returns to the country. Over the last many months, Chinese brigades have conducted field checks on several systems in Myanmar, according to a report in The Irrawaddy, an English gate in Myanmar. Over the past decade, Chinese structure investments under the marquee of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Myanmar endured a rocky history of stops and thresholds, as have other BRI systems in Southeast Asia. Despite lapses, the structured route in Myanmar — labeled the “China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC)” — pledges to connect the Indian Ocean canvas trade to China’s Yunnan Province and pay tips for China by addressing internal development precedence’s, the strategic vulnerabilities of China’s canvas force, and its competition with India.

A successful CMEC would thus mainly ameliorate China’s overall geopolitical fortunes in the region and further tie, Southeast Asia, into its route. Eventually, the depth of China’s domestic and foreign policy interests in Myanmar and its significant influence and history of involvement in the country suggest that China’s escalated efforts to jumpstart the design will probably lead to CMEC’s success over the medium to long term. On a more expanded position, CMEC shows how BRI in Southeast Asia deliberately operates in favor of core Chinese interests and that these interests will remain and incentivize Chinese policy commitment amidst global pushback and review of the action.


This year will mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and Myanmar, which was recently celebrated with a high-level visit by President Xi Jinping to Myanmar in early 2020. Valuing more than just a show of warmness in ties, the visit demonstrated renewed Chinese interest in Myanmar. The Chinese President strongly reiterated China’s commitment to revive the halted multi-billion-dollar BRI projects in Myanmar by inking dozens of new memoranda of understanding, some of which the Chinese called as restarted even with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

These BRI systems aim to give indispensable access to the Indian Ocean for the remote and underdeveloped Yunnan Province in Southeast China but remain worried by retardations. Theoretically designed to upgrade the deep-water harborage at Kyaukphyu and connect it to Yunnan with an expansive structure network and several large-scale energy systems, CMEC bears utmost resemblance to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Although the exact price label of China’s BRI investments in Myanmar is delicate to ascertain grounded on intimately-available information, the government-appointed Myanmar Investment Commission’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration reports over $21 billion bones in approved Chinese foreign direct investment as of March 2020.

It is still aligning with the military, ignoring the atrocities, and perfecting the army with investment in major CMEC domains if China proceeds on its current course. Its trap with the military autocrats will destroy its unborn relations with the country’s political leaders, who ultimately are bound to prevail in their struggle against the revived dictatorship. However, it must avoid the trap the Tatmadaw set to beget China to view the achievement solely through the prism of geopolitical competition — a perspective that disregards Myanmar’s internal realities; if Beijing wants to keep its eye on the future.

Myanmar is on track to become the rearmost ground of China’s influence in the region. It isn’t just solicitude for India, but for all the Quadrangle mates. The U.S. won’t see China’s warming defense ties with a military government in Myanmar as a treat, keeping in mind the growing US-China contest in every part of the world. China’s Belt and Road Initiatives are largely witnessed by India and the United States as a matter of concern, but China refutes such claims. The Western countries have blamed China for putting the third world countries and poor states into its debt trap, a claim China repeatedly denounces. However, China’s increasing coziness with the military government in Myanmar has surely put some in India through sleepless nights. India was considered Myanmar’s most favorable and close partner during Suu Kyi’s government, but now the tables have turned, and China has won the favor of Myanmar’s military junta despite the direction of public emotion.

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