Move in line with vision that aspires to guarantee security for all maritime partners, says MEA
India will hand over INS Sindhuvir, a Kilo class submarine to the Myanmar Navy, the Ministry of External Affairs announced on Thursday. Addressing the weekly press interaction, official spokesperson of MEA Anurag Srivastava said this will be the first submarine of the Southeast Asian country and the move is in line with the overall Indian vision that aspires to guarantee security for all maritime partners.
“In this context, India will be delivering a Kilo class submarine INS Sindhuvir to the Myanmar Navy. We understand that this will be the first submarine of the Myanmar Navy. This is in accordance with our vision of SAGAR — Security and Growth for All in the Region, and also in line with our commitment to build capacities and self-reliance in all our neighbouring countries,” said Mr. Srivastava to a question.
The announcement came days after Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane visited Myanmar and held talks with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander in Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The submarine, purchased from the Soviet Union in the 1980s, has undergone modernisation at the Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) in Vizag.
It belongs to a class of diesel-electric attack submarines built by the Soviet Union during the Cold War years.
The submarine 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. Last year, India supplied Myanmar ‘Shyena’ advanced light torpedoes as part of a defence deal. The October 4-5 visit of Mr. Shringla and General Naravane was also noteworthy as Myanmar and Bangladesh have recently engaged in a war of words over heightened military tension near the border at Chittagong regarding the Rohingya issue.
India’s military outreach to Myanmar is important as it comes in the backdrop of the ongoing military tension along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh between India and China, a leading industrial and business partner of the Southeast Asian state.
On 17 January 2020, President Xi Jinping visited Myanmar. The visit led to 33 bilateral agreements being signed to unleash the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) soft power which is not in the best interests of Myanmar. Nonetheless, in an attempt to question CCP’s role in aiding crimes against humanity, Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar Armed Forces, Senior General Min AungHlaing (MAH) probed Party President Xi on the role of CCP in assisting the large number Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) operating in Myanmar.
In November 2019, the Tatmadaw (official name of Armed Forces of Myanmar) seized a large cache of weapons which included a Chinese made FN-6 from the Ta’ang National Liberation Army. The Tatmadaw has also been increasingly frustrated with the availability of Chinese made weapons with the Arakan Army (which has been declared as a terrorist organisation by the Government of Myanmar). This was also voiced by MAH during his recent visit to Russia where he stated that terrorist organisations active in Myanmar are backed by ‘strong forces’; albeit the CCP. This indicates that top Tatmadaw military brass has blamed CCP’s attempts to take advantage of the fragile internal situation and undermine the sovereignty of Myanmar.
Notwithstanding bilateral setbacks in 1967 and 1973, China-Myanmar relations (termed as “PaukPhaw‘ or fraternal) have been on the upswing since 1988. After the infamous ‘8888’pro-democracy uprisings, Myanmar was relegated to being a pariah by the West, and the CCP had swiftly moved in to fill the void. Over the years, as the West shunned Myanmar, the CCP became Myanmar’s key political, military, economic and diplomatic partner and began exerting disproportionate pressure and influence on Myanmar.
Today, China is important to Myanmar for several reasons. Economically, China is Myanmar’s largest trading partner and largest source of FDI. Diplomatically, the CCP uses its UNSC veto as a shield for Myanmar. Politically, the CCP has not only engaged extensively with both the ruling NLD party and the Tatmadaw but has also exercised its influence on EAOs in negotiating the peace process. In effect, the CCP with its “double game” continues to exploit Myanmar’s resources by accentuating its vulnerabilities.
The original cost of developing KyaukPhyu SEZ (which is a part of China-Myanmar Economic Corridor or CMEC) was $ 7.2 Billion. This cost was slashed to $ 1.3 billion by Myanmar over concerns of excessive debt. Whilst the environmental/ social impact assessment for the project is yet to begin, concerns have already erupted in the local populace. Though these concerns may seem premature, given Myanmar’s previous experience with other Chinese projects such as the LetpadaungCopper Mine (where Chinese operators blatantly resorted to land grabbing/ unauthorised evictions) and Myitsone Dam project (where construction had to be stopped in September 2011 due to environmental issues), these concerns are increasingly influencing Myanmar’s decision making. Today Mayanmar’s leadership is worried about the tell-tale signs of the “Dragon’s trap“.
Another shocking fact of CMEC is that it passes through the most troubled areas in Myanmar where EAOs have waged armed conflict for decades against Myanmar’s government. The KyaukPhyu SEZ (Rakhine state) is where the Arakan Army is active and the other end of CMEC is in the Northern Shan State where armed conflict has been raging. It is unclear how such large financial investments in these sensitive areas would assist in ending the armed conflicts. The converse is more likely to be the state. The CCP is infamous for closed-door negotiations and would resort to illegally paying the EAOs to progress the CMEC. Such payments will further empower the EAOs, and in turn, strangulate Myanmar’s peace process.
More recently, the Government of Myanmar has ordered a probe into the contentious Chinese development of ShweKokko in Karen State by illegal land confiscation/ construction, and the influx of CCP’s money for illicit activities. Be it the CMEC, Letpadaung Mine, Myitsone or Shwe Koko; in fact in all Chinese aided projects, total disregard of rules and insensitivity to local sentiments is a measure of the coercive approach of the CCP in exploiting Myanmar.
Anti-CCP sentiment in Myanmar is not only fuelled by large state-run projects such as CMEC but also smaller projects such as private infrastructure development, small-scale mining operations and agriculture – plantations, where exploitation of local population is rampant. Allured by cheap labour, land, lack of transparency and ineffective labour laws, CCP-backed Chinese private companies are investing heavily in plantations bearing cash crops in Myanmar. These plantations are often unregulated and the investors take the assistance of EAOs, thereby exploiting the locals and natural resources of Myanmar for CCP.
The emergence of COVID-19, limited transparency in CCP’s economic dealings and lack of concern for national sentiments, coupled with exploitation of natural resources have resulted in deep distrust and anxiety among the people of Myanmar against the Chinese. The hardened Western stance and increasing investment by CCP, push Myanmar further into the Chinese orbit, eventually paving the way to being shackled by the tentacles of the Dragon’s debt trap and becoming a client state.
The country’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy is seeking proposals for 30 large-scale solar plants. The selected developers will be awarded 20-year power purchase agreements.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) has issued an invitation for PV developers to submit prequalifying bids for the construction of several solar plants throughout the country, with a combined capacity of 1 GW.
The document, which was published on the MOEE’s Facebook page, states that the selected independent power producers will be awarded 20-year power purchase agreements. Overall, 30 solar facilities with capacities ranging from 30 MW to 40 MW are expected to be built through the tender.
Prospective developers will have until June 18 to submit their proposals.
According to the latest statistics from the International Renewable Energy Agency, Myanmar had cumulatively installed 88 MW of PV capacity by the end of 2019. Most of that capacity came from a 50 MW solar plant that was completed last July.
Off-grid solar already plays a key role in Myanmar’s electrification strategy. A number of rooftop PV arrays and minigrid projects having already been developed in rural parts of the country. However, the utility-scale solar segment has also started to take off.
Myanmar is to build and launch a small Earth observation satellite by 2021 with the assistance of Japan.
Engineers and technicians from the Myanmar Aerospace Engineering University will travel to Japan as soon as travel restrictions imposed due to the Coronavirus pandemic are lifted, where they will be trained and educated by satellite engineering faculty at the Hokkaido and Tohoku Universities.
The small satellites will weigh approximately 50 kilograms and measure 50 x 50 x 50 centimetres, and will be used for remote sensing to monitor agricultural conditions, environmental monitoring, and disaster surveillance.
The students from Myanmar will spend up to five years working with the Japanese universities and will build two small Earth observation satellites, with the aim of launching the first one by the end of 2021. The students will be trained in satellite engineering and manufacturing, satellite data analysis and interpretation, as well as in all the necessary steps from satellite mission conception and development through to launch and on-orbit operations.
The total cost of the training programme is US$16 million for the training and accommodation of the students, the development of the two satellites, and their subsequent launch. All of the costs will be paid for by the Myanmar government.
The training of graduate students from Myanmar in Japan is part of a Myanmar government initiative to develop and establish its own space and satellite programme, and is being overseen and administered by the vice president of Myanmar, Myint Swe.
Japanese diplomats, space industry executives, and university officials have visited Myanmar often and met with officials there to lobby Japanese satellite technology and services. This lobbying has attracted much criticism from human rights activists, but Japanese analysts argue that if they did not provide Myanmar with satellite technology then Myanmar’s political leaders would simply seek it from countries such as China.
On a majestic mission to build a smooth and seamless energy cooperation mechanism, massive pipelines connecting Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal, shall be strategically laid out by India to put off the challenges caused by the treacherous terrains of the North-East of India.
The scope of the project is integrative and ambitious in nature as the aforementioned neighboring countries have united to commence the initial operations. This mechanism would facilitate convenience in transporting petroleum products such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), diesel and other variants.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan envisioned the ‘North East Hydrocarbon vision 2030’ with the aim to augment the hydrocarbon production in the North-East of India, proposing an investment of Rs.1, 30,000 crores over 15 years. About 6, 900 km of pipeline shall be stretched across the regions of Sitwe (Myanmar), Chittagong (Bangladesh), North-East of India, and the Siliguri and Durgapur regions of West Bengal.
This geographical connectivity across regions is a strategic and a well-planned move to steer away from wastage, inflammation, and most crucially, benefit the masses by meeting their essential needs for clean cooking gas and fuel. Aligned to this goal, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) scheme was introduced by the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi to aid the women beneficiaries populating the Below Poverty Line strata. The Free LPG connections being distributed to the beneficiaries scheme has managed to distribute LPG connection to about 2.7 crore beneficiaries, post its launch in May 2017.
Remarking on the foundation stone laying ceremony for an LPG bottling plant at the industrial park of Bodhjungnagar, Mr. Pradhan further shared, “The proposed bottling plant at Bodhjungnagar would be able to cater to the rising demand of cooking gas in Tripura. Existing Silchar (in southern Assam) bottling plant’s capacity would also be augmented by 60 metric ton per annum ensuring smooth supply of LPG in the Northeastern states.”
With the aspiration of adding 10 crores new LPG connections by 2019, in order to attain maximum coverage of the households of India, the energy mechanism has been put in place.
In the quest to provide sustainable power solutions and meet its 10.5 % renewable purchase obligation by 2021-22, the state of Mizoram has articulated and given a concrete shape to its Solar Power Policy, advocating 80MW worth solar projects in 2017.
With the ambitious plan of scaling investments in the solar sector, multiple incentives have been ensured, encouraging the development of solar projects, with special emphasis on the rooftop and ground-mounted placements.
Apart from focusing on decentralized and off-grid power projects; solar street and solar home lighting system, solar water pumping and solar power plants, Mizoram’s solar power policy’s range of incentives involve – Rs.115 per Watt for a microgrid of up to 10 kW, Rs. 99 per Watt for a mini-grid of 10 kW to 500 kW. An installation of 1 kilowatt to 500 kilowatts qualifies for an incentive of 70% of the benchmark cost and an incentive of Rs. 20 lakh /MW can be received for emplacing a project in a solar park. The Government of Mizoram has shown interest in issuing incentives worth 50 lakhs / MW to the farmers and the jobless on account of their participation in developing a project in the solar park.
The policy has strict stipulations with regard to all official state departments and institutions, along with the government of Mizoram, in installing solar rooftop systems. The policy formulates the setting up of grid-connected rooftop solar projects in all the buildings of the state, within the contracted capacity of 1KW and above.
Further incentives are in the form of 100% refund of the stamp duty on land purchased for the purpose of development of solar projects in the state. All facilities vis-à-vis manufacturing, production and other ancillary engagements have resorted to electricity duty exemptions.
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has bagged its largest-ever export order which is valued at Rs. 10,000 crore. This order is for setting up a thermal power project in Bangladesh. The Indian company was able to win this contract in spite of very hard and competitive bidding. The order has been secured from Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited (BIFPCL) which is a 50:50 joint venture between NTPC and Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). BHEL is India’s largest power equipment manufacturer. The company has arranged debt financing for the project from Exim bank for which loan agreement between Exim bank and BIFPCL was signed in March 2017.
BHEL’s scope of work in the project includes design, engineering, manufacture, supply, construction, erection, testing and commissioning of the 1320 MW thermal sets with ultra-supercritical parameters on turnkey basis. It will also set up a jetty and a river-water intake system. The main equipment to be used by the project will be manufactured at BHEL’s Trichy, Haridwar, Hyderabad, Ranipet, Bhopal, Bangalore and Jhansi plants. The responsibility for the construction and installation activities at site will lie upon the company’s power sector construction division. BHEL has done some projects in Bangladesh earlier as well which include 100 MW Baghabari Gas Turbine Power Project and 2×120 MW Siddhirganj in Bangladesh. It has also set up 220 KV Baghabari & Ishurdi substations.
SolarHome is a Southeast Asia-focussed solar energy firm that is seed funded and venture built by Singapore-based Forum Capital. Founded in 2016, it is a renowned provider of solar energy for rural off-grid households and it acts as an investment and strategic advisory firm specialising in venture building and supporting growth companies in developing markets. The company has decided to invest around US $ 25 million in Myanmar over the next five years. SolarHome has already invested US $ 400,000 in Myanmar and the current target is to raise and invest up to US $ 1.5 million in Myanmar by the end of 2018. It is currently engaged in its pilot project on basic lighting which enables villagers around Pathein and Ayeyarwaddy to purchase solar system through a micro financing scheme. By paying just 10,000 kyats as down payment and a monthly payment of 9000 kyats for 2 years after that anyone can purchase a solar system from them. On the completion of 2 years, customers will have the ownership. Installation is free and so is repair for the two year warranty period. The company expects that it will be able to install around 2,500 systems in 2017.
The power sector in Assam is in a tough spot as the accumulated
loss of the three public sector power utilities of the State has
reached the huge amount of nearly Rs. 3,700 crore. This amount has
been calculated since the splitting of the Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB) in 2004, when the power utilities started with a clean sheet. The splitting process of the ASEB was completed in 2007 with the aim to bring the turnaround in the fiscal health of the State’s power sector in 2008-09. It was hoped that these utilities would become selfsustaining but they still continue to incur loss. In the total loss amount of Rs. 3,700 crore, Assam Electricity Grid Corporation Ltd.’s (AEGCL) share in this amount is around Rs. 442 crore and Assam Power Generation Corporation Ltd.’s (APGCL) share is nearlyRs. 173 crore. The reasons resulting in this grim situation are attributed to various factors including higher
transmission and distribution (T&D) losses, lack of transparency in
metering and billing activities of the APDCL, lack of accountability and wasteful expenditure.
In case of Assam State Electricity Regulatory Commission (AERC),
one of the reasons for incurring such heavy losses is that the tariff
awarded to the power utilities is nonremunerative. This means that they are granted a low tariff compared to the cost of power they supply to the consumers.The transmission and distribution loss in the State’s power sector is 26 per cent presently. An important fact here is that AERC has been fixing the T&D loss target to the APDCL and the AEGCL and only the loss approved by the AERC can
be passed on to the consumers.The rest of the loss must be absorbed
by the APDCL and the AEFCL themselves.The APDCL meter reading has a lot of flaws which is resulting in huge losses. So, this is one area which needs to be looked into and fixed as soon as possible. Tendency among officials working in the power sector to indulge in
wasteful expenditure also needs to be addressed and curbed.
Woodside Petroleum is a well-known Australian energy company operating in Myanmar. This company got a chance to expand its operation in Myanmar when sanctions and restrictions were eased after the year 2010. Today, with six blocks covering more than 11,000 acres, Woodside Petroleum is the largest stakeholder in the western Rakhine basin. The company has recently made a second gas discovery as it came across 200 net feet of natural gas. The discovery has been made in the Bay of Bengal about 60 miles from the western coast of Myanmar. The first discovery this year was made by Woodside Petroleum in January on the opposite end of the Rakhine basin offshore Myanmar. These discoveries show that offshore Myanmar has great potential and will encourage Woodside Petroleum to focus on making many more explorations in the region.