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India's defence deals with Myanmar junta: French link blamed ahead of Modi visit

By Rajiv Shah 

A new report, which has named five French banks and a pension fund for supporting Myanmar military junta, has blamed one of them, Crédit Agricole, for investing in India’s state-owned company Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) that has been implicated in the sale of military equipment to the Myanmar junta since the 2021 coup attempt.
The findings by global NGOs Info Birmanie, BankTrack and Justice for Myanmar (JFM) have been published while France is preparing to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a guest of honour at the July 14th Bastille Day parade in Paris, as part of the celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the France-India partnership.
The report also notes that BEL is a leading partner of the Thalès Group group,too. A JFM investigation published earlier had revealed that one of Thales' long-time partners, BEL, has a particularly close relationship with the Myanmar junta, and exports military technology to it.
A special section in the report, "Indian arms company supporting the Myanmar military", claims that "four Indian companies linked to the Myanmar military are identified by our research, including Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), a state-owned company that has sold military equipment to the junta since the coup."
Stating that India is "a major provider of arms and revenue to the Myanmar military, and BEL is part of India’s attempts to cosy up to the junta", the report quotes the UN Special Rapporteur as explaining:
“Since the coup, entities within India, including state-owned entities, have shipped at least $51 million USD of arms, raw materials, and associated supplies to the Myanmar military and known Myanmar arms dealers. A total of 22 unique suppliers based in India shipped arms, dual-use supplies, manufacturing equipment, and raw materials to the Myanmar military.”
Stating that in May 2023, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar highlighted that “in July 2021, Indian state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited exported a remotecontrolled weapons station (RCWS) / air defence weapon station to Myanmar according to export data”, the report quotes the UN official as saying:
“Additional research found that shipments continued from India to Myanmar, including state-owned Bharat Electronics’ transfer of the remote controlled weapons station (RCWS) / air defence weapon station up to September 2022. Further research also identified $28 million USD of shipments direct to the Myanmar military related to a coastal radar surveillance system and $5.2 million USD of unspecified equipment sent from Bharat Electronics at the end of 2021.
"The Special Rapporteur also received information indicating that state-owned Bharat Dynamics, one of India’s ammunition and missile systems manufacturers, received over $7 million USD in payments for unspecified equipment from the Myanmar military since the coup. Given the nature of Bharat Dynamics products, the Special Rapporteur is concerned about the potential impact of these shipments on civilian populations.”

"It is striking to note that while BNP Paribas and Banque Postale have divested from BEL since 2021, Crédit Agricole has started to invest in it, even though BEL’s links with the junta have been made public and communicated to the bank", the report says.
Prepared with the support of the International Federation for Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders and the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, the report states the six financial institutions support to the Myanmar junta, Crédit Agricole, La Banque Postale, the BPCE group, BNP Paribas, Société Générale and the Fonds de Réserve pour les Retraites (FRR), have invested over US$6 billion, 75% of which is in the fossil fuel sector.
Asserting that the investments were made in companies that sell arms to the junta and in companies operating in the telecommunications sector that enables the junta’s surveillance, the bank partnering with BEL, Crédit Agricole, with US$4 billion investment, accounts for most of the investments.
According to the report, the companies in which these six financial institutions are shareholders have been divided into two categories: those with a direct and long-standing relationship with the Myanmar military or with companies controlled by the Myanmar military before the coup (category 1), and those with a direct business relationship with state-owned companies under military control following the coup of February 1, 2021 (category 2).
Highlight the connection of these investments to fueling widespread and systematic human rights violations in Myanmar, including the imprisonment of 70 journalists and other severe restrictions on press freedom, the report insists, French investments and the partnership between India and France in the field of defence should be rigorously scrutinised in the light of these findings, to prevent French institutions from helping to finance the flow of arms and technology to the junta.
The report calls on the five banks and the pension fund to comply with their obligations under France’s 2017 Duty of Care Law and international standards on business and human rights, urging the financial institutions to divest immediately and responsibly from companies listed in category 1 and to sell their shares in category 2 companies if they do not cease their support for the junta. 
France must ensure that the Pension Reserve Fund does not invest in companies linked to the Myanmar military, it adds.
The Info Birmanie's coordinator is quoted as saying that "it is urgent to see Crédit Agricole divest from Indian arms manufacturer Bharat Electronics Limited, which Norges Bank Investment Management, a Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, in particular, divested from because of its arms sales to the Myanmar junta."
According to Yadanar Maung, Justice For Myanmar spokesperson, “It is unacceptable that French banks and a pension fund continue to invest in companies with known ties to the Myanmar military junta that is committing atrocity crimes against the people of Myanmar with impunity."
He adds, "These banks must act now to ensure they are in no way supporting the junta. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, we urge France to take a firm stance against the flow of arms to the junta, including from India, and push for a global arms embargo.”
Henrieke Butijn, Climate campaigner & researcher at BankTrack asserts: “It is outrageous that these banks have still not taken adequate action to assess and cut ties with companies linked to the Myanmar junta, even after their investments were exposed two years ago."
He adds, "That is two years in which the junta has been able to use the revenues from fossil fuels and the products from companies like Bharat Electronics to terrorise the population. By failing to act on their investments, these five French financiers are not only in breach of the OECD Guidelines and UNGPs, they are also betraying the people of Myanmar."


Uma said…
The governments of France and India are equally responsible for this and should act in concert to force their respective countries to get out of this business.


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