The Indian government recently confronted Myanmar over intelligence reports that China is constructing a surveillance military base in its Great Coco Islands, an archipelago around 55 km away from India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Bloomberg reported.
Since the 1990s, several intelligence reports have been circulating about China building an intelligence facility on the island in the Bay of Bengal. However, the matter came to the spotlight recently after London-based policy research group Chatham House released a report last week claiming that the Junta government was militarising the island, with the sole purpose of conducting maritime surveillance operations in the area.
Following the report, Maxar Technologies—a US-based space tech firm— released satellite images in January 2023, purportedly showing renewed levels of construction activities on the island.
The Indian officials shared these satellite pictures with their Myanmar counterparts during a meeting that appeared to show Chinese workers helping with the construction of a listening post on Coco Islands. In these pictures, the workers were also seen extending an airstrip, the Bloomberg report states citing New Delhi officials aware of the development.
The officials further revealed that Myanmar officials rejected the allegations made by India about Chinese involvement.
Reacting to the reports, a spokesman for Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council, Major General Zaw Min Tun, refuted the allegations, calling it “absurd”.
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He also denied that the issue was never discussed with the Indian officials, adding that Myanmar would never allow access to foreign troops.
“Myanmar and India always have discussions at many levels, but there was no specific discussion on this issue,” he was quoted as saying.
“The Indian government already knows perfectly well that only Myanmar security forces are based there, and they are doing defence activities for their own country.”
However, Indian officials told Bloomberg that they intend to persist with Myanmar as they believe that over the years, the military government has grown economically dependent on Beijing’s funds as they are grappling with the US and EU sanctions announced after 2021 coup.
India has a military facility in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which is less than 60 kilometres (37.2 miles) away from the Coco Islands. The nation is ramping up its capacity in that island chain, the officials said, without giving more information.
(With inputs from agencies)
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