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Strong need to monitor activities in strategic Coco Islands

Discussion in 'Defence Analysis' started by nik141993, Mar 19, 2017.

  1. nik141993

    nik141993 2nd Lieutant FULL MEMBER

    Oct 22, 2016
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    The Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea are as important to Myanmar as they are to India. Most sea lines of communication (SLOCs) pass through these two seas. The Coco Island north of Andamans is strategically important to both India and Myanmar. China has shown keen interest in this island since last four decades. It is supposed to have a SIGINT facility to monitor Indian missile launches into Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. The airstrip too is considered a Chinese construction. The Myanmar coast line is dubbed by many as China’s second coast in the IOR.

    Recently a spurt of activities has been witnessed at the Coco Island. Considering Chinese ambitions in the IOR and its assiduous expansionism, there is a strong need to monitor all activities in the IOR especially at the Coco Island. We made an effort to read the Myanmar activities in the island through Google Earth (GE) satellite imagery of the last one year.


    Myanmar has actively reclaimed an area of 400m X 900m for possible expansion of the airstrip. A large cement mixing plant has been established to construct cement blocks for reclamation as well as construction and expansion of the pier (discussed in succeeding para). Very large quantities of tetra-pods have been dumped for possible strengthening of coastline. A 470m long and 7m thick retaining wall has been constructed at the Northern end of the airstrip.


    Airstrip expansion

    The airstrip at the Coco Island has been expanded over the last decade from 1300m to 1800m to 2000m to the present 2300m. The land reclamation suggests that it is likely to be extended to 2500m with a 200m overrun at both ends. The additional 1000m in Southern end has been carved out of the adjoining hill. The excavated earth probably been used for reclamation purposes. The apron has been constructed between 2006- 2013. It has now been expanded to a size of 125m X 180m. A control tower has been erected along with a reception building.

    New naval pier

    A large naval pier (size 100m X 55m) is being constructed at the north eastern end of the Coco Island. It is assessed that this pier will be used for unloading infrastructure related materials. Both sides of the pier will probably have at least two cranes each sooner than later.


    February last year saw a large naval presence here during the “Sea Shield 2016” bilateral naval exercise with India. Five frigates, a stealth ship, an FAC missile and a hospital ship are observed at the new pier on February 26, 2016. Four of the frigates, the stealth ship and the hospital ship are indigenously constructed at Yangon Naval Construction Yard. The construction is being largely assisted by China especially the C-802 missiles on board these frigates. This naval exercise was considered part of India’s “Act East Policy” in which the present government also has sanctioned a radar station at the Narcondam Island.


    Radar station

    A new radar station has been constructed at the highest point of the Coco Island at about 91m above sea level. The station has a radome of 11.5m diameter probably containing main radar. It also has two vehicle sheds (size 11m X 6.5m) for radar vehicles to park. There is a platform (size 15m X 15m) West of the radome for deployment of radar vehicles. At least three SHORAD guns are observed at this radar station. The construction of this radar station had started in 2014 end. The design suggests Chinese origin/assistance.


    Worrying development

    New infrastructure development and expansion/renovations of existing infrastructures in the Coco Islands is a worrying development. The large airstrip that can land military aircrafts and a radar station that can monitor every Indian activity from Sri Lanka to Malacca Straits, Indian interests are under careful watch if not under threat.

    On the contrary, India’s reactions to these developments have been lethargic to say the least. Despite the green and government go ahead for a radar station at Narcondam Islands since last two and half years, there has been no activity at all till date.


    India needs to understand the strategic importance of the Andaman Sea and needs to develop the infrastructures in the Andamans to make it a strong military and economic hub in the IOR. The radar station in the Narcondam Islands also needs a push at appropriate levels.

    The author is a former Army officer who is an expert in imagery analyses
    kiduva21, AbRaj, PARIKRAMA and 2 others like this.
  2. Ripcord322

    Ripcord322 Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

    Nov 30, 2016
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    It is no secret that the Chinese have considerable influence on ALL of our neighbours.
    And It is a widely accepted fact that there are Chinese RECON and INT facilities Coco Is.
    Infact I believe there are a lot of them elsewhere in our neighborhood.

    The Chinese understand the value of Intelligence.They have Diplomatic Muscle and Political will to influence our own neighborhood deeply.

    On our Side...I don't think our political class has the guts, cunning, vision and planning to substantially stand up to China in any meaningful way...The CPEC passing through PoK is a clear example of it.

    Believe me...I wouldn't be surprised if the Chinese invaded and Took over Nepal or Bhutan or Even A.P.

    The Chinese have become too powerful now, Fully Standing up to them on every issue is simply impossible for us now.

    Any government in power can only try to protect only our most important strategic interests and make sure they don't seem like weaklings while doing it, so as to avoid public uproar.

    That calls for deepening trade ties, bilateral talks, showmanship of Defiance by Speeches and Statements and not provide incentive to anger the Chinese by any real action.

    This is what any pragmatic and realistic government would do.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
  3. Inactive

    Inactive Guest

    I would have loved to have a comprehensive analysis on this including the associated developments with dual use. Shall post the articles/commentary as an addendum.

    The Trouble With India's Projects in Myanmar
    India has great ambitions for infrastructure construction in Myanmar, but falls short in implementation.

    By Sudha Ramachandran

    Myanmar President Htin Kyaw’s recent visit to India, the first by the head of a civilian government in Myanmar in over five decades, saw the two sides focus on improving connectivity and counterinsurgency cooperation.

    In addition to reaffirming their commitment to “fight the scourge of terrorism and insurgent activity in all its forms and manifestations,” and “not allowing any insurgent groups to use their soil for hostile activities against the other side,” the two sides signed four agreements, two of which are aimed at accelerating completion of the much-delayed India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) highway.

    Under these agreements Delhi has undertaken the construction of 69 bridges, including approach roads on the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa section of the IMT highway, and also upgrade the Kalewa-Yargi section of this highway. The new deadline for completion of the IMT trilateral highway has been set at 2020.

    The 1,400-km-long IMT highway links Moreh in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur with Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar. It is the first overland link between India and Southeast Asia.

    India is implementing several infrastructure projects in Myanmar. These are aimed at accessing Myanmar’s rich natural resources, improving connectivity between the two neighbors, and facilitating bilateral travel and trade.

    Additionally, since Myanmar is India’s land-bridge to Southeast Asia, this infrastructure is aimed at linking India to markets in the region. It is expected to boost development in India’s economically backward northeastern states, several of which share borders with Myanmar. Importantly, Myanmar provides landlocked northeast India with an outlet to the sea, a route that is shorter than the current one via the Siliguri Corridor to Kolkata port.

    India began construction of the 160-km-long India-Myanmar Friendship Road linking Moreh with Kalewa and Kalemyo in Myanmar in 1997 to link to Southeast Asian markets and to provide a fillip to its “Look East” policy. In 2002, India, Myanmar and Thailand decided to make this a trilateral highway by extending this road to Mae Sot. Delhi now plans to extend the IMT highway to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

    Clearly, India doesn’t lack for ambition when it comes to infrastructure building. Where it falls short, however, is in implementing projects; almost every Indian project in Myanmar is running behind schedule.

    The IMT highway, for instance, was scheduled to be ready by 2015. Indeed, a bus service on this route was inaugurated late last year only to be shut down immediately as bridges along the route that were of World War II vintage were found to be unusable. Hence the signing of agreements during Htin Kyaw’s visit that will see India repairing bridges and approach roads with a view to putting the trilateral highway project back on track.

    Like India, China is engaged in upgrading ports, extracting oil, and building roads and bridges in Myanmar. Indeed the two Asian giants often compete for infrastructure projects here.

    According to Khriezo Yhome, research fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation’s Neighborhood Regional Studies Initiative, “In terms of the objectives of accessing natural resources or building strategic alternative routes in and through Myanmar, there is not much of a difference between what Delhi and Beijing want to achieve.”

    However, India’s investment in Myanmar is a fraction of that of China. India invested just over $224 million in Myanmar during fiscal year 2015-2016, and no new investments were made in the first four months of fiscal 2016-17. In comparison, China invested $3.3 billion in Myanmar in 2015-16.

    “China has left India far behind” with regard to infrastructure projects, Yhome told The Diplomat, drawing attention to the delays plaguing India’s infrastructure projects in Myanmar. Lack of coordination among different implementing agencies, poor monitoring, and financial constraints are among the main reasons for India’s failure to meet deadlines, he said.

    There are other challenges too. “In areas where some Indian infrastructure projects, particularly roads and bridges, are being implemented, feeder roads are usable only for some months due to difficult terrains,” Yhome observed. There is the question of security too. Roads linking India with Myanmar run through insurgency-wracked regions, “creating problems for smooth implementation of projects,” he pointed out.

    In addition, “flawed feasibility studies are hindering timely completion of projects,” an official in India’s Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (MDONER) told The Diplomat. This is the case with the Kaladan multi-modal transport project, which envisages linking Lawngtlai in India’s northeastern state of Mizoram via a road and the River Kaladan to the deep-sea port at Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine province.

    The India-funded and executed project involves developing Sittwe to handle 20,000-ton vessels (up from the 2,000 to 3,000-ton ships it handles at present); dredging the River Kaladan from Sittwe to Paletwa (a 158 km long stretch) to improve its navigability; building an inland terminal at Paletwa where cargo will be shifted from barges to trucks; and constructing a 129-km-long highway linking Paletwa to the Indian border.

    However, the Kaladan project is running behind schedule. “Every stage of the project has suffered delays,” the MDONER official said, pointing to the fact that 13 years after the project was conceived it remains incomplete.

    Delhi brought the multi-modal transport project to the Myanmar government in 2003. It then took five years for the two sides to enter into a framework agreement and it was only in 2010 that construction work began. It was originally due to be completed in July 2013. Several more deadlines were set and missed.

    According to the MDONER website, the Myanmar government delayed in handing over land at Sittwe and Kaletwa to India.

    But also, India had to revise its plans midstream. Under the original plan, the inland terminal was to be located at Kaletwa, north of Paletwa. However, the Kaladan River was found to be unnavigable beyond Paletwa. This required the road from Lawngtlai to be extended up to Paletwa.

    This “underestimation of the road length on the Myanmar side” has resulted in cost escalations. A “more thorough feasibility report” could have prevented the “inordinate delay” in the project’s completion and the added cost incurred, the MDONER official said, adding that India’s “failure to deliver projects on time” in Myanmar has eroded its credibility there.

    Like Chinese infrastructure projects in Myanmar, some of India’s projects are also opposed by activists and local communities. The Kaladan movement, an umbrella group of civil society organizations and environmental groups, for instance, has criticized India for opacity in the implementation of the project. Local communities were apparently not consulted or informed about the project’s impact. They are not being included in the project’s benefits and are being discriminated against with regard to wages. Activists are also drawing attention to the Kaladan project’s destructive impact on the environment and impacts on local livelihoods.

    India has denied some of these allegations. While admitting that an environmental impact assessment was not done for the Kaladan project, Delhi argues that this is not necessary as the dredging of the river involves “minimum intervention.”

    However, Yhome points out that India has been responsive to concerns raised by activists. It has “addressed these issues and been willing to discuss any issue with local protesters.”

    Importantly, when activists raised environmental and social concerns over India’s construction of the Htamanthi hydropower project, with an installed capacity of 1,200 MW, and the Shwezaye hydropower project with 880 MW on the Chindwin River, India “suspended the projects at the request of the Myanmar government,” Yhome said.

    This is in sharp contrast to China’s refusal to pull out of unpopular projects in Myanmar. The Myanmar government’s decision to suspend the $3.6 billion Myitsone dam project in response to mass protests against the project evoked Beijing’s ire. Five years after the suspension, Myanmar is still under pressure from China to reverse the decision.

    Myanmar’s civilian government is reportedly keen to diversify its economic partners in order to reduce China’s overwhelming influence over the economy. This would open up greater opportunity for India to play a role in Myanmar and expand its influence there.

    The question is whether India would accelerate implementation of its infrastructure projects there. Should India continue to drag its feet in this regard, it could lose future projects to western and Asian investors like Japan. The window of opportunity opening up for India will not remain open forever.

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  4. Inactive

    Inactive Guest

    China, India fast-track BCIM economic corridor project
    By Atul Aneja


    China and India are adding fresh momentum to the establishment of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor, which is expected to develop gradually before more ambitious goals are achieved.

    Chinese officials acknowledge that unlike in the past, when it was perceived to be dragging its feet, India is now showing enthusiasm over the project, which will link Kolkata with Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province, passing through Myanmar and Bangladesh, with Mandalay and Dhaka among the focal points. The focus on linking provinces and States — in this case, Yunnan and West Bengal — seems to have given a new impulse to galvanising the plan.

    The main artery of the 2,800-km, K (Kolkata)-2-K (Kunming) corridor is nearly ready. A stretch of less than 200 km, from Kalewa to Monywa in Myanmar, needs to be upgraded as an all-weather road.

    Corridor will provide access to sea for north-eastern States

    In a free-wheeling conversation at the International Regional Cooperation Office of Yunnan, its Deputy Director-General Jin Cheng said the main artery of the 2,800-km, K (Kolkata)-2-K (Kunming) corridor is nearly ready.

    “A stretch of less than 200 km, from Kalewa to Monywa in Myanmar, needs to be upgraded as an all-weather road. The second is the segment between Silchar in Assam and Imphal in Manipur, which India is upgrading,” he said.

    From the West Bengal capital, the corridor will head towards Benapole, a border crossing town in Bangladesh. After passing through Dhaka and Sylhet, it will re-enter the Indian territory near Silchar in Assam. The rest of the passage will be connected with Imphal and then pass through the India-built Tamu-Kalewa friendship road in Myanmar.

    Mandalay will be the next focal point of the corridor before the road enters Yunnan, after crossing Lashio and Muse in Myanmar. The Chinese stretch extends from Ruili before reaching Kunming through Longling and Dali.

    The central corridor can be connected with two supplementary passages to the north and the south. Starting from Kunming, the northern passage heads towards Myitkyina, capital of Kachin state in Myanmar, before extending to Ledo in Assam. After crossing Dibrugarh and Guwahati, this road enters northern Bangladesh and joins the central corridor inside the country, before reaching Kolkata.

    At present, this route is problematic because it enters a small portion of Arunachal Pradesh over which India and China have a territorial dispute. Besides, a part of this stretch is insurgency-prone, and therefore unsafe.

    The Chinese official pointed out that the BCIM corridor would be incomplete without drawing Mizoram into the framework through the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project. Under this plan, Mizoram would be connected with Myanmar’s port of Sittwe, through the Kaladan River, and the passage will provide all the landlocked north-eastern States access to the sea. Compared with the land route, Sittwe provides these States access to Kolkata, just 539 km away.

    Mr. Jin acknowledged that one of the strategic factors driving the corridor was reduction of reliance on the Straits of Malacca, militarily dominated by the U.S.

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  5. Inactive

    Inactive Guest

    The implications for India can not be looked at in an isolated manner by merely considering the Chinese activities limited to Indian Ocean.


    As can be seen from the Map above, there are two major Military Regions (MR; Chinese da junqu) with their associated Military Districts (MD; Chinese sheng junqu) that have potential India specific orientation namely -
    • Lanzhou MR: consisting of Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia and Xinjiang Military Districts.
    • Chengdu MR: consisting of Chongqing, Sichuan, Xizang, Guizhou, and Yunnan Military Districts.

    Notwithstanding the aforementioned Military Region, the enhanced infrastructure as existing within the Chinese mainland, can give reasonable estimates of the ability of China to concentrate additional and overwhelming military forces from any other MR. The development of the Northern Road grid of Myanmar, and the presence of Chinese in Myanmar's political scenario since 1988-89 (as India withdrew it's engagement over Democracy issues, the process gathered steam under a military junta associated with pragmatic Chinese policy of discontinuing support to the Communist Party of Burma or CPB), allowed China to specifically develop this road network to a reasonable standard in an attempt to have an access to SLOC outside waters dominated by US Navy (The Malacca Dilemma).

    The Chinese, as a result of almost a decade and a half of absence of Indians from the Myanmar Political Scene, were able to extract concessions towards this end with the Military Junta, which shared a common wariness with the Chinese of the US' intentions in Myanmar as also IOR (incidentally converging with Indian wariness). It was this particular period, which allowed China to develop the SIGINT capability at Coco Islands, whereby it could keep an 'eye' on US and then, as US 'handed over' the Malaccas to Indian Navy in the backdrop of being engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom, on Indian Navy.

    However, the enhanced push to develop the BCIM corridor by both India and China, is fraught with the risk of a multi axes attack into Indian territory not limited to Ladakh-Himachal-Uttaranchal-Sikkim-Arunachal, but extending into Manipur-Nagaland and Mizoram axis too.
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