Last week, India and Myanmar inked an agreement to facilitate coordinated patrols among them.
On February 16, the navies of the two countries signed the standard operating procedure (SOP) for India-Myanmar Coordinated Patrol (IMCOR) at the Tri-Service Headquarters in Port Blair at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands following the fourth iteration of their coordinated patrols. The agreement was signed by Commodore Atul Anand VSM from the Indian Navy and Commodore Aung Zaw Hlaing from the Myanmar Navy in the presence of Gautam Mukhopayhaya, India’s ambassador to Myanmar.
The signing of the pact formalizes a key part of ongoing maritime cooperation between India and Myanmar, which both share a long maritime boundary in the strategically significant Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. Myanmar is just the third country with which India has signed such a formal agreement on maritime coordinated patrols, with the other two being Indonesia and Thailand.
“The signing of the SOP is a significant achievement and will facilitate smooth conduct of coordinated patrols between two friendly neighbors,” the Indian defense ministry said in a press release.
More broadly, it is another sign of the growing importance of Myanmar in Indian strategic thinking in the security realm. As I have noted previously, the maritime domain has been part of bilateral defense discussions, even if tangible progress on some aspects of collaboration that New Delhi would like has been quite slow (See: “India, Myanmar Eye Future Defense Cooperation”). Indo-Myanmar cooperation is also occurring as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tries to advance his so-called “Act East” policy – a more action-oriented variation on the ‘Look East’ policy first formulated under then-premier Narasimha Rao in the 1990s which seeks to strengthen relationships with ASEAN specifically and East Asia more generally.
The SOP was signed at the closing ceremony of the 4th IMCOR, which was held by the two navies along the International Maritime Boundary Line in the Andaman Sea. New Delhi and Naypyidaw have been carrying out these coordinated patrols since 2013. This year, the four-day long event, which began on February 13, witnessed the participation of Indian navy ships Saryu and Bitra along with Myanmar vessels Aung Zeya and FAC 563.