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Burma seeks closer military ties with Pakistan

Burma's Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing is given a military salute alongside Pakistan's Gen. Raheel Sharif upon the former's visit to Pakistan on 6 May 2015. (PHOTO: DVB)

Burma’s Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing visited President Mamnoon Hussain of Pakistan last week, when the pair discussed closer military relations and bilateral trade.

Posting online, the Burmese military chief said he relayed the following message to the Pakistani president: “We would like to initiate an exchange program between the heads of the various layers of the defence services. We would like to express our condolences and sympathies for the recent terrorist attack at a Peshawar military high school. We understand the important role of Pakistan in the region, and the foreign policy of my country is one of peaceful co-existence between our two nations.”

In response, President Hussain said, “This trip helps to upgrade the friendship between our countries. We thank Myanmar for assisting us during the crisis in 1971 [presumably the Indo-Pakistani War and subsequent secession of East Pakistan to form Bangladesh]. We congratulate Myanmar for successfully taking the position of ASEAN chair and holding regional meetings [in 2014]. I hope trade between our two countries will continue to increase in the future. We would like to cooperate in other sectors.”

Pakistani media reported that their government wished to see an increase in trade, defense and travel, and that Pakistan was offering Burma training in education, military and other sectors.

Min Aung Hlaing met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 7 May, when the latter reiterated his president’s message and said he wanted to “cooperate fully” in all mentioned sectors.

Burma’s commander-in-chief also met with his direct counterpart, the highest ranking military officer in Pakistan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen. Rashad Mahmood. Min Aung Hlaing reportedly briefed Gen. Mahmood on Burma’s preparations for this year’s general election, its progress in implementing a nationwide ceasefire, and the Kokang conflict. The senior military chiefs also voiced their support for the proposed exchange programme involving senior military officials.

It was also reported that Min Aung Hlaing met with Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army Gen. Raheel Sharif during his visit when the pair shared experiences of Pakistan’s counter-terrorist operations and Burma’s anti-insurgency efforts.

Burma’s military delegation is next due to fly to Serbia for a similar round of meetings.