India will supply indigenously developed lightweight torpedoes to Myanmar in a contract estimated at $37.9 million in just the latest sign of growing defense collaboration between the two states, Indian defense officials said last week.
As I have written previously, both India and Myanmar have been trying to strengthen their defense collaboration over the past few years (See: “Why is India’s Navy Chief Visiting Myanmar?”). In a broad sense, this is part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act East Policy – a more action-oriented variation on the “Look East” policy first formulated under then-premier Narasimha Rao in the 1990s that sought to strengthen relationships with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations specifically and East Asia more generally.
But it is also an acknowledgment of the increasing prospects for India-Myanmar cooperation in the maritime domain more specifically (See: “Where Are India-Myanmar Naval Ties?”). This is no surprise. In addition to a land border, both countries also share a long maritime boundary in the strategically significant Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal where they face common challenges, from illegal fishing and smuggling to a rising China. India is also in a position to assist a less developed but growing Myanmar Navy with some capacity-building, and we have seen New Delhi provide training, assistance, and equipment sales to Myanmar, even though some of the more ambitious initiatives have yet to take place.
On March 24, Indian media outlets reported that the export documents for India to provide lightweight torpedoes to Myanmar were presented to defense and finance minister Arun Jaitley at an event last Friday.
S Christopher, the head of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), confirmed in New Delhi that the export of the torpedoes, produced by PSU Bharat Dynamics and engineering company L&T, follows earlier supplies of military equipment including naval sonars, acoustic domes, and directing gear to Myanmar.
Few specifics were provided beyond this. IHS Jane’s quoted unnamed industry sources as saying that Christopher was referring to the DRDO-designed advanced lightweight torpedo Shyena, which is reportedly based on the Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei (WASS)/Leonardo A244/S lightweight torpedo previously provided to the Indian Navy (IN).