Myanmar’s Great Coco Island gets new military infrastructure, India suspects Chinese hand


New Delhi, April 01 (KMS): Myanmar’s Coco Island is witnessing military modernisation and creation of facilities for aircraft operations, latest satellite imagery shows.

The photos from January by satellite imagery firm Maxar Technologies show renewed levels of construction activity on Great Coco Island. India suspects China’s hand in the development as is has always doubted Coco Island to be used by the Chinese as a listening post targeting its strategic Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

In an article published by Chatham House, an independent policy institute headquartered in London, satellite imagery expert Damien Symon, and foreign affairs and security issues expert John Pollock wrote that there are two new hangars, a new causeway and what appears to be an accommodation bloc – all of which are visible in proximity to a freshly lengthened 2,300-metre runway and radar station.

Great Coco Island, the largest in an isolated archipelago that lies just 55 km north of Andaman and Nicobar Islands – the home to India’s first tri-service command – has been rumoured to have Chinese presence over the last two decades at least.

Indian media quoting sources in the defence establishment said the Chinese have always been suspected of having an intelligence set up on the island with the use of specialised radars and listening points which allegedly went for an upgrade last year and are capable of tracking India’s defence activities, including missile testing.

While India maintains a working relationship with Myanmar, China’s sway has increased with the military junta there taking control back from the civilian government. Beijing has invested heavily in the country through the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor to access Indian Ocean sea lanes as a way to bypass the Strait of Malacca – a critical sea lane for shipping destined for China’s east coast.

“Chinese companies are believed to be operating on the ground, building major infrastructure projects such as deep-water ports, while the junta is allocating the few troops it has left to protect them,” the article said. It added that India may soon face a new airbase close by in a country increasingly tied to Beijing.

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