India’s Arms Aid To Myanmar Junta May Be Fueling Violence In Manipur – Analysis


The Narendra Modi government’s policy of letting Manipur burn without taking political steps to douse the fires, is going hand in hand with its policy of strengthening military relations with the junta ruling Myanmar. 

Indian arms supplies to Myanmar are being used to suppress rebel tribal communities that live on the Myanmar-Manipur border, according to the pressure group “Justice for Myanmar” (see: .

And this is having an impact on the unrest in Manipur because there is movement of people and arms across the porous border, exacerbating the violence in Manipur. 

The Kukis of Manipur, who are in violent conflict with the Meiteis, are akin to the Chins and Zos of Myanmar. And these groups maintain close cross-border relations.  

Writing in the July 19 issue of Foreign Policy, South Asia tracker Michael Kugelman notes that Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had met his counterpart from Myanmar’s military-led government, Than Swe, on the side lines of a regional conference in Bangkok on June 16. The meeting followed a two-day visit to Myanmar early in July by the Indian Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane.

“This stepped-up engagement takes place against the backdrop of violence in Myanmar that has intensified since the military took power in a coup in February 2021, and which poses growing risks to Indian interests in light of the unabated violence in Manipur,” Kugelman notes. 

“The junta has staged vicious crackdowns in Myanmar’s Chin state and Sagaing region, where resistance is strong; in January, two bombs reportedly landed in India. And since the military took over, border conditions have become more porous, enabling more drug smuggling and human trafficking. As groups in Myanmar have provided sanctuary to militants from Manipur, India and Myanmar are collaborating in efforts to apprehend the rebels,” Kugelman says.

In the on-going conflict between the Kukis and the Meiteis, the latter accuse Myanmar of financing poppy cultivation in the Kuki areas of Manipur. But Kukis assert that it is funded by Meitei drug cartels. 

Though the real solution to the Meitei-Kuki conflict (which has all but destroyed Manipur) is a negotiated peace based on give and take, the Modi regime has combined inaction in Manipur with strengthening the Myanmar military regime with a stepped-up supply of arms.   

“According to the United Nations, India has sent more weaponry to the junta since the coup. This may reduce Myanmar’s reliance on China, but it is certainly fuelling the very violence that poses a risk to India,” Kugelman asserts. 

VOA’s Report 

Voice of America (VOA) said in a report dated June 29, that a pro-democracy Myanmar pressure group “Justice for Myanmar” has been urging India to stop selling arms to the junta.

“Justice for Myanmar” said that its research has found weapon parts made in India but of Swedish design, being shipped to Myanmar. 

“While the U.S., European Union and others have imposed arms embargos on Myanmar, India, which shares a 1,600-kilometer border with the country, remains one of the military regime’s few remaining suppliers. Indian exports of arms and dual use goods and technologies are significant for the Myanmar military and enables it to continue to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Justice for Myanmar’s spokeswoman Yadanar Maung told VOA.

She urged India’s QÚAD allies to “step up and start using their leverage to stop India’s abhorrent support for the junta.”

The pressure group told VOA that it found more than US$ 5 million worth of deliveries from state-owned Bharat Electronics to the Myanmar military and its known arms brokers between November 2022 and April. The shipments included transducers and sonar parts for naval vessels, radar equipment and battlefield radios.

The group added that, as per records, a shipment of 20, 122 mm barrels from Yantra India in October last year, likely for howitzer artillery guns of the sort the military is reported to have used on civilian targets.

“Justice for Myanmar” says that data from the global trade tracking service “Panjiva” ( show thousands of explosive fuses shipped to another known arms broker for Myanmar’s military in 2019, 2020 and 2022 from India’s Sandeep Metalcraft.

“Panjiva” gathers and shares commercial shipping data using government-issued records from 17 countries, including India. 

While the records for the 2020 and 2022 shipments do not specify the types of fuses, “Justice for Myanmar” said the 2019 deliveries were listed as model 447, for the 84 mm Carl Gustaf rifle, a shoulder-fired weapon originally designed and manufactured by Sweden. 

In September 2022, the Swedish arms giant Saab announced plans to build a factory to make the Carl Gustaf rifle in India and to have the plant up and running by 2024.

“When Saab produces arms in India, there are no guarantees over what will happen with these arms. There may be requirements on end use and end users imposed by Sweden and Saab, but we have not seen the terms so there is no way to know what,” Yadanar Maung spokeswoman for “Justice for Myanmar” said.

“Even with such terms, there is no practical way to guarantee the rifles will not be exported, she added, calling on Sweden to suspend all licensing and production agreements with Indian arms makers,” the pressure group says. 

Neither Saab nor Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied to its  requests for comment, VOA said.

The shipments from Bharat, Sandeep and Yantra are only the latest in a string of Indian arms exports to Myanmar over the past few years.

VOA went on to quote a report of the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said India’s post-putsch arms exports to the country come to at least US$ 51 million in all.

In his report, Andrews said India has no excuses not to know of the Myanmar military’s “probable war crimes” and that the exports “likely violate” New Delhi’s obligations under the 1996 Wassenaar Agreement. The nonbinding treaty obliges members, which include India, to prevent arms transfers to end users whose behaviour becomes “a cause for serious concern.”

“India should therefore be aware that the arms it provides to the Myanmar military … are likely to be used in the commission of international crimes,” Andrews wrote.

“It would be in the interest of the people of Myanmar for India’s state-owned arms manufacturers to stop selling arms and associated materials to the Myanmar military and the government of India to stop authorizing these arms transfers,” he added.

Ian Storey, a senior fellow at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute tracking the region’s relations with major powers, said he sees little chance of that.

“For India, arms sales to Myanmar are seen as a means to stay on the junta’s right side and prevent the country from becoming too dependent on China and Russia,” he told VOA.

Appeal to US

“Justice for Myanmar”” released its latest findings on India’s arms exports to Myanmar just ahead of Modi’s state visit to the US. It urged Washington to push New Delhi to cut the junta off and to apply pressure by placing conditions on its own military aid to India.

VOA asked the US State Department whether the United States raised the arms exports during Modi’s stay. In an emailed reply, the department’s press office said the US “expressed deep concern about the deteriorating situation” in Myanmar during his visit but it did not provide a direct answer to the question.

The press office email said that the US urged “the international community and all countries” to block arms exports to Myanmar and that stopping their flow was “critical to preventing the recurrence of atrocities against the people of Burma, (former name of Myanmar).”

P. K. Balachandran

P. K. Balachandran is a senior Indian journalist working in Sri Lanka for local and international media and has been writing on South Asian issues for the past 21 years.

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