ndia’s military exercise with Myanmar and move to deliver relief material for displaced people in Rakhine state are in keeping with its strategic interests of expanding relations with the neighbouring country at a time when China is seeking to extend its influence in the region.
The Rohingya refugee crisis and the situation in Rakhine have provided an opportunity for China to try to expand its strategic partnership with Myanmar by offering to broker a deal with Bangladesh and create economic projects in the disturbed zone.
However, India, in a timely move, kicked off a military exercise with Myanmar last week to keep the country’s all-powerful military engaged. This was followed by 3,000 family relief packs delivered to Rakhine on Friday.
Rakhine is critical to the strategic objectives of both India and China. Kaladan multimodal project, India’s dream connectivity project in the region, originates from the restive state.
China, on the other hand, is building a port not far from the Indian built Sittwe port – the nodal point for Kaladan multimodal project – in Rakhine to connect Bay of Bengal with Kunming province. The project has been included in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Therefore, stability in Rakhine is as important for India as it is for China.
The $484-m Kaladan project plans to connect Sittwe port with Mizoram through multimodal means. The port is ready for use and work is on for the road connectivity segment of the project.
China recently proposed to build an economic corridor with Myanmar through Rakhine, which Chinese experts say would allow the country access to the Indian Ocean. Rakhine will also be transit for the $1.5 b oil pipeline from Bay of Bengal to China.