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India, Myanmar army conduct mega ops to protect Kaladan project near border

The Kaladan project aims to connect India and Myanmar by sea and land and is expected to be operational by 2020.

Senior Indian army officers have confirmed that more than 12000 Indian troops were deployed along the India-Myanmar border between February 17 and March 2 but categorically dismissed reports of a cross-border strike by Indian armed forces along the lines of last month’s air force strike on Balakot in Pakistan.

The recent deployment, which reportedly comprised mainly of Assam Rifles units being moved south to the Myanmar border, took place simultaneous to a crackdown by the Myanmar army against rebels who were threatening and trying to extort money from Indian personnel working on the USD 484-billion Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project in Myanmar being funded by India. The project aims to connect India and Myanmar by sea and land and is expected to be operational by 2020.

While the officers confirmed that India and Myanmar were in touch diplomatically ahead of the operation with the two armies holding several meetings to plan it, it was by no means a cross-border strike as is being portrayed in some reports. “We operated in coordination with the Myanmar army and our main aim was to prevent these elements from moving into India,” said a second senior officer in the military establishment, who did not want to be named.

“We don’t need to cross the Myanmar border because there is a mutual understanding on both sides and the Myanmar army largely obliges with whatever we ask them for,” said a senior army officer closely monitoring the North-east. “The Myanmar rebels have been creating more problems on their side than ours. At their request, we had killed 5 of their rebels and captured 8-10 on our side in 2017. Thus, the Myanmar army, too, struck the separatist National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khalang) HQ in Taga on our behalf”.

At least 12 rebel positions were destroyed by the Myanmar Army which was armed with Indian hardware, a senior army officer said. Among other things, India shared radio sets with the Myanmar Army for “ease of communication and to prevent incidents of friendly fire.”

While confirming that at least one soldier of the Myanmar Army was critically injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast, they dismissed reports that two Indian army jawans had been killed in a skirmish with Myanmar-based rebels in Vathuampui on the Mizo-Myanmar border.

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