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Defence Minister to visit Myanmar, Australia

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Defence Minister A K Antony will visit Myanmar and Australia in the next few weeks to develop stronger defence ties with the two countries.

The first visit would be to Myanmar on January 22-23 where he is likely to take up issues of building capability of the Myanmarese armed forces, Defence Ministry officials said.

The two countries share over 1,600 km long boundary and are also working on a MoU on border management and coordination, they said.

India may agree on imparting training to the Myanmarese Air Force personnel on their Russian Mi-35 attack choppers, which are operated by the IAF as well.

In the recent past, India has been increasing its engagement with Myanmar, which has very good relations with China.

India is also expected to agree to increase the intake of Myanmarese armed forces personnel in its military academies and other training institutions.

The Defence Minister's visit to Myanmar comes soon after External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid went there.

In the past also, India has supplied equipment to Myanmar including phased-out Islander aircraft and 105mm field guns.

After his Myanmar visit, Antony will proceed to Australia in early part of February where he is expected to discuss developing stronger ties between the navies of the two sides.

In 2011, Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith had visited India when the two countries had agreed upon ensuring freedom of navigation in international waters in view of the controversy over the South China Sea.

The two ministers had also agreed to examine the possibility of undertaking a full-fledged bilateral naval exercise in future and institute a Track 1.5 dialogue (at semi-government level) on defence matters.

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