22 December 2017
Traditional security concerns such as the defence of sovereignty and territorial integrity have driven Myanmar’s naval modernisation ambitions since the turn of the century. Such insecurities peaked in 2008 following a clash with the Bangladesh Navy over disputed maritime borders in the Bay of Bengal. While the amicable resolution of this dispute made Myanmar’s anxieties less acute, this category of threats continues to dominate Myanmar’s strategic calculus on the seas.
Though Myanmar’s maritime security outreach has occurred mostly at the bilateral level, it does participate in multilateral maritime security initiatives with ASEAN such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and the MILAN naval exercises. This international outreach is met with enthusiasm by regional and extra-regional powers who see enormous economic and strategic benefit in a ‘normalised’ Myanmar given the growing geo-economic importance of the Indo-Pacific.
India, which shares a long maritime boundary with Myanmar, is one of Naypyidaw’s major maritime security partners. The Bay of Bengal has long been an area of geostrategic importance for India, and it has taken on renewed significance — reflected in India’s recent ‘Act East’ policy — since China began making inroads in the Indo-Pacific through its Belt and Road Initiative.
… Rajni Gamage is a Senior Analyst in the Maritime Security Programme at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 27/12/2017