India has delivered a submarine to Myanmar for the latter to train soldiers, but this has been hyped by some Indian and Western media as a move to counter China’s growing influence in Southeast Asia, which Chinese experts said is an over-interpretation and provocation meant to disrupt China’s relationship with countries in the region.
The submarine, renamed UMS Minye Theinkhathu after a historical hero in Myanmar, appeared in a naval exercise conducted by the Myanmar navy in mid-October. It can operate up to 300 meters deep, VOA reported Sunday.
It will be the first in a fleet that Myanmar wishes to build, and is likely to be used initially for training and orientation purposes for its Navy personnel, media reported.
India wants to get rid of a retired and outdated submarine, and Myanmar needs one to train its soldiers. The two sides take what they need and the deal is as simple as this, Li Jie, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Monday, saying that hyping China’s behind the deal is an over-interpretation.
The submarine would pose little threat to China given its age, but the possibility that India intends to enhance ties with Southeast Asian countries that have close exchanges with China in various fields cannot be ruled out, including in economy and arms sales, to provoke their relationship with China, Li warned.
Chinese analysts called for neighboring countries not to fall into the trap.
Myanmar is reportedly the first export customer of the FC-1 Xiaolong, a lightweight and multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by Pakistan and China, as it signed a contract for 16 FC-1 Xiaolong fighters on December 2015 during the Paris Air Show.
Six of the fighters were delivered to Myanmar in 2018.
The country is also equipped with many other China-developed weapons like tanks, rockets and rifles.
Media reported that the submarine India sold to Myanmar belongs to a class of diesel-electric attack submarines built by the Soviet Union during the Cold War years.
India purchased the submarine from the Soviet Union in the 1980s and named it the INS Sindhuvir. The submarine retired in 2017 and underwent refitting at the Hindustan Shipyard Limited in Vizag, the Hindu reported.
Although India said that the submarine could serve the Myanmar army to at least 2030 after refitting, Chinese analysts doubted the submarine’s functionality, as it had served in Indian army for more than 30 years, entering the end of a submarine’s life – and the refitting only gave it refurbishment, but did not upgrade its system and facilities.
However, the submarine is still a breakthrough for the Myanmar military, and would help Myanmar train personnel for submarines in the future, analysts said.
Myanmar has become the fifth Southeast Asian country to have a submarine, following Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.