With the coming to power of the new NDA government at the Centreand the appointment of Gen (Retd) V. K. Singh, former Chief of Army Staff, and now a federal minister of Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), the noticeable signs are that India is serious about both development and security in this strategic region, bordering Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar.
What is, however, interesting, and of strategic significance, besides China’s growing military presence in Tibet, is its activities in Myanmar especially with regard to ambitions for better access to the sea via the Myanmar coast.China has been diligently building up its ‘second coast’ in Myanmar overlooking the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. While this build up has the undivided attention of India’s Navy and defense establishment, it would be vital to add the future implications for the Northeast, to make a holistic strategic and security assessment.
Myanmar’s 2,276 km long coastline in the Bay of Bengal has the potential to provide China a strategic presence in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Especially transportation logistics to the ‘second coast’ from landlocked south west Chinese provinces like Yunnan have both economic and strategic benefits.China is building an integrated transport system linking the Kyaukpyu port to Yunnan Province in South West China with the sole aim of reducing energy shipping through the Malacca Strait and South China Sea. The plans include a railroad project from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, to Kyaukpyu to complete the logistics loop to the ‘second coast’.
India needs to put in place a well-coordinated approach to secure the maritime and land neighborhood of the Bay of Bengal and Northeast India. This would include strengthening naval and coastal patrol assets in the coastal waters off the Andaman and Nicobar islands as well as enhanced strategic assets at the Northeastern borders opposite the ‘second coast’.