India Supply Arms to Myanmar
In a development that could snowball into a diplomatic row, India has been questioned by Sweden over its alleged role in supplying weapons to the Myanmar army in violation of European Union sanctions.
The Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls (ISP) launched a probe after it was given pictures and other details of several M-3 Carl Gustav anti-tank rifles, which were recovered by Kachin rebels in Myanmar.
The media reported that Swedish trade minister Ewa Björling as having said: “The Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls has requested an expedited answer from India, and my state secretary has been in touch with the Indian ambassador.”
“There has been a weapons embargo in place against Burma for a very long time, and Sweden hasn’t exported any weapons to the country since then,” he added.
Meanwhile, India is investigating whether weapons purchased by the Indian army had wound up in Myanmar’s hands. “We are looking into it. But we never sent any lethal weapons to Myanmar,” an Indian official said.
A 17-year-old ceasefire between Myanmar and the Kachins collapsed last year. The Kachins (from north Burma) have been in a conflict with Myanmar for decades.
In a photograph taken by a freelance photographer, the serial number of one of the weapons is clearly seen. The photos form part of the documentary evidence given to the Swedish government. While the weapons were made by Swedish firm Saab, it has reportedly denied selling weapons to Myanmar – suggesting they were acquired through a third party.
The European Union had imposed an arms embargo on Myanmar about two decades ago, following reports of human rights violations by the former military junta. Many economic sanctions were lifted after Myanmar recently embarked on the path of reforms, but the arms embargo continues. The embargo stipulates that European manufacturers would have to ensure that no weapons sold to foreign countries are passed on to Myanmar.
“One thing is clear… we are not in the business of supplying weaponry,” Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid told reporters in Yangon. “We will try to find out how this happened. It’s one weapon, isn’t it? In a very big world, one single weapon has been identified,” he said, adding that the Indian army will check its inventory as part of the probe.
According to a story published in Britain’s The Independent newspaper, the Swedish weapons were used by Myanmar troops in their fight against ethnic Kachin rebels in the country’s far north.