India is set to hand over Myanmar its first ever submarine, with a Kilo class boat likely to be sent across this year after being refitted indigenously.
The INS Sindhuvir will be used by the Myanmar Navy — which is looking at acquiring its own submarine fleet in the coming years — for training purposes.
The Kilo class submarine, bought from Russia in the 1980s, is currently being modernised by the Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) in Vizag with sources saying that work is likely be completed before the end of this year.
Sources have told ET that requisite permissions have been taken from Russia that is the original manufacturer of the submarine and that it will be fitted with indigenous systems to train the Myanmar Navy.
There have been a series of high level exchanges and meetings between the two nations in recent months, with the Myanmar Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services (CDS) Senior General Min Aung Hlaing currently on an official visit to India.
The Indian Defence Ministry has said that that talks with the Senior General were aimed to “enhance defence co-operation, review joint exercises and training provided to Myanmar Defence Services, strengthen maritime security by joint surveillance and capacity building…and developing new infrastructure”.
The transfer of the submarine is likely to take place with a line of credit (LoC) that has been extended by India to Myanmar for enhancing military capability. The Indian initiative, sources said, came after extensive talks with the Myanmar leadership over the past four years to understand their defence needs.
As part of the capacity building, earlier this month India supplied Myanmar with advanced light torpedoes named `Shyena’ as part of a $ 38 million export deal that was signed in 2017. The torpedoes were manufactured by the state owned Bharat Dynamics LimitedNSE 0.23 % (BDL).
The agreement over the transfer of a submarine comes even as China has been making considerable efforts to supply underwater weapon systems in the region. Sources said that China had also been in talks with Myanmar for the supply of its older submarines. In 2017, Bangladesh received two refurbished Type 035G-class submarines (Ming class) from China as part of a $ 203 million deal, a move that was watched with caution in India as it symbolized the increasing dependence of the neighboring nation on Beijing.
Sources said that the Kilo class (Project 877) being transferred by India is significantly more capable that the Ming class that was sold by China and is suitable for operations in the region as has been demonstrated by the Indian Navy. The deal with Myanmar also includes a significant training package to prepare the neighbouring nation for induction of a larger fleet in the coming years.
In March this year, Commodore Moe Aung, Chief of Staff (Myanmar Navy) had announced that the nations would soon have a submarine arm. The senior officer said that acquiring submarines was part of a long term plan that includes training of crew that would need at least four years. Senior Myanmar officials have visited Russia in recent months for talks on acquiring new submarines and training experience on the INS Sindhuvir is likely to come in handy.