China has promised to seek closer military cooperation with Myanmar as it seeks to establish greater influence over the country. The pledge followed a meeting between senior military commanders from the two countries and follows increasing competition between China and India, which both share borders with Myanmar, to strengthen their presence there. Myanmar has faced intense international criticism for its campaign against the Rohingya Muslims, which has prompted 600,000 refugees to flee their homes, but China has so far been restrained in its comments on the crisis – a stance that could allow Beijing to present itself as a reliable source of support, according to one analyst. Li Zuocheng, who sits on China’s Central Military Commission – the nerve of the People’s Liberation Army – told Myanmar’s Senior General Min Aung Hlaing that China’s increasing prosperity offered an important opportunity for Myanmar’s development, according to a statement from China’s Defence Ministry. “In the face of a complex and changeable regional security situation, China is willing to maintain strategic communication between the two countries’ militaries,” Li was cited as saying in the statement issued late on Wednesday. China lays out three-point plan to ease Rohingya crisis Li expressed the hope that China would have greater contacts with the Myanmmar armed forces, including a greater role in training troops and more technical exchanges for peacekeeping operations along their shared border. It follows Myanmar’s first joint warfare training exercise with India near Shillong in the northwestern state of Meghalaya this week. Collin Koh, a maritime security expert at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said both India and China were highly aware of the potential for military influence and cooperation with Myanmar. “Myanmar has traditionally not been siding with either India or China … which leaves it open [for the two powers to compete],” he said. According to 2011 figures from the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database, China has been the major supplier of military hardware to Myanmar since 1988. It has supplied over 90 per cent of Myanmar’s military transport and has also provided warplanes and ships. In May, the Chinese navy conducted its first exercise with its Myanmar counterpart. But India is also catching up. In 2013, India offered to supply artillery guns, radars and night vision devices to Myanmar’s army. India is also reportedly considering supplying offshore patrol boats to India following talks between their military officials in September. UN envoy: sex assaults on Rohingya women may be war crimes Despite the overtures from China and India, Myanmar is under intense pressure for violence against Rohingya Muslims in its northwestern Rakhine state, with security forces accused of extensive human rights violations. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has offered to help Myanmar and Bangladesh, which has received an influx Rohingya refugees, to resolve the crisis. Wang called for a ceasefire and international efforts to help develop Rakhine. “At a time when Myanmar is being pressured so much by the international community on human rights issues, China saw it as an opportunity to show Myanmar in many ways that it is still a major regional player that they could count on,” Koh said. Koh said Myanmar is an important strategic location for China as it could offer an alternative route for China to import it's the 80 per cent of its oil and gas supply that comes from the Middle East and Africa. Currently, the majority of the imported energy has been supplied through the Strait of Malacca after passing through the Bay of Bengal. China and Myanmar talk infrastructure as Rohingya crisis rages The increasing tension in Sino-India relations over Doklam, which ended in August, and India’s stronger alliance with the US has made China more afraid of being choked off by India in the shipping route, according to Koh. Li Jie, a Beijing-based military analyst, said a stronger Sino-Myanmar military would help stabilise China’s position in the region and protect China’s interest as Myanmar could become a main route of trade for China in the future. “Being close to Myanmar can lessen the threat western countries can cast on China for blocking its shipping route, reducing China’s reliance on the Strait of Malacca, “Li said. “When China and Myanmar have developed trust over military in the region, the economic cooperation could also be smoother,” Li said. China is currently investing in Myanmar as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, with work to build a 771km pipeline to transfer crude oil starting this year.