India in middle of submarine transfer, building communication links with Myanmar

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday night as an apparent follow-up to the Biden-Modi phone conversation the previous evening, especially on a common stand on Myanmar and deepening cooperation among Quad countries.

On the human rights front, the coup in Myanmar is the first test case for the Biden administration with an avowed focus on human rights and democratic values. The frequent consultations with India would ensure that the impact of the impending sanctions does not adversely affect India’s interests in the region.

Currently, India is in the middle of several major initiatives with Myanmar such as the transfer of military platforms including a submarine, finishing touches to an India-refurbished port in Sittwe, a connecting road to Mizoram and a highway to Thailand besides a large number of high impact community projects.

With the UNSC unable to move towards a sanctions regime, US NSA Jake Sullivan has spoken of their inevitability by the Western block. At the same time, the State Department has made it clear the sanctions won’t be imposed without consultations with “like-minded allies and partners’’.

Like India, the Myanmar generals will also not like being sanctioned in a manner that pushes them to a situation where China becomes their sole option for trade and security, said the sources.

Though the US administration has termed the February 1 regime change as a coup, the generals have gone by the Constitution. After the President was unwilling to sign the order, the army’s nominee stepped in to approve, as the Constitution mandates, for one year. India may therefore prefer for the US to turn the screws gently, indicated the sources.

The Quad was discussed by Blinken and Jaishankar and a few hours later figured at the US State Department briefing. The two Foreign Ministers discussed the “value’’ of US-India cooperation across the Indo-Pacific and said they looked forward to expanded regional cooperation, including through the Quad.

The US read-out of the Blinken-Jaishankar conversation and the State Department said Quad aimed to “confront some of the defining issues of our time’’ including Covid, climate and democratic resilience.

The Quad had momentum and potential, and the Biden administration will build on it by deepening cooperation on areas of traditional focus including maritime security, said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price.