The Quad (US, Japan, India, Australia Security Dialogue) : Updates and Discussions

Gautam

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India, Oman to sign maritime transport pact enabling Delhi to expand footprints

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury
Updated: Dec 22, 2019, 10.31 AM IST

This will be the first visit of External Affairs Minister to Oman after the new government in India took over in May 2019.
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Photo : Foreign minister Dr. S. Jaishankar.

NEW DELHI: India and Oman will sign an agreement during Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s visit on Tuesday for cooperation in the field Maritime Transport enabling Delhi to expand footprints in Western Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Eastern Africa.

Ahead of Oman, Jaishankar will visit Iran for the Joint Commission meeting on Sunday-Monday eyeing to safeguard India’s interests in the region close on heels of Indo-US 2+2 meet. India has opened more ports to connect with Chabahar.

Oman is a strategic partner of India and the two countries are linked closely by geography, history and culture and enjoy warm and cordial relations attributed to historical maritime trade linkages as well as close links of the Oman’s Royal family with India. The visit of Prime Minister Modi to Oman in February 2018 was path breaking and has led to further consolidation of our close ties as well as identifying new areas of cooperation.
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Photo : Aerial view of the Duqm port.

Oman has allowed India including Navy access to its Duqm port.

India is among Oman’s top trading partners. During 2018-19, bilateral trade was $ 5 billion. In 2018, India was the second largest importer of crude oil from Oman. There are over 7,80,000 Indian citizens in Oman, second largest expatriate community in the country.

This will be the first visit of External Affairs Minister to Oman after the new government in India took over in May 2019. The visit is in pursuit of India’s objective of enhanced engagement with the Gulf region which is in India’s extended neighbourhood.

It will provide an opportunity to hold in-depth discussions with the political leadership on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues and will advance India's growing engagement with Oman and the region.

India, Oman to sign maritime transport pact enabling Delhi to expand footprints
 

Gautam

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India to setup high-tech cameras along China border, new war-time shelters in North East

By Shaurya Karanbir Gurung
Updated: Dec 24, 2019, 10.13 AM IST

The developments came to light in a report of the Standing Committee on Defence, which was presented to the Lok Sabha speaker on Friday.

NEW DELHI : India is planning to set up high-tech surveillance cameras along the Line of Actual Control with China, while also focusing on establishing war-time and weather-proof aircraft shelters in the North-East.

The developments came to light in a report of the Standing Committee on Defence, which was presented to the Lok Sabha speaker on Friday. The Committee explained that during a visit to India’s eastern sector from November 4-9, they came across a request for state-of-the-art surveillance cameras. About 16 such cameras were required for posts there. The Committee learnt that the defence ministry received a request for these cameras not only in the eastern sector, but along the northern borders as well.

The request is being undertaken in two ways. The first is a time-taking central procurement that meets the complete requirement. The second way is the Army Commanders’ Special Financial Powers Fund to meet immediate operational requirements until the central procurement materialises. However, the Committee noted that despite the special powers granted to the army commanders, surveillance equipment has not been installed at the required places.

“It is desired that the immediate requirement for surveillance equipment at the Eastern Command and northern borders, including Nathu la post, must be fulfilled at the earliest. Also, the complete requirement of the surveillance equipment must be attended to through central procurement as the border areas are sensitive in nature...No stones shall be left unturned in order to develop a fool proof border line,” the Committee stated.

The Committee also pointed at the ‘paucity’ of aircraft shelters in the Indian Air Force (IAF). Such shelters protect the aircraft from bombing raids and dust and birds as well. The IAF informed the Committee that it is making aircraft shelters in a systematic manner. The focus was on India’s western border with Pakistan. It added that the focus is now on the North-East. The plan is with the defence ministry. The IAF is making two types of shelters, including a new generation hardened one which will protect aircraft from bombs. The other type are sun shelters that will protect the aircraft from rain and other weather conditions. While sun shelters exist in Tezpur and Chabua in Assam, new generation shelters are costly and take time to be built.

The Committee recommended, “expediting the plan for construction of aircraft shelters so that avoidable damage to planes is taken care of.”

India to setup high-tech cameras along China border, new war-time shelters in North East

The news has come out just now, but the systems have arrived months back. Looks like its going to be the Tonbo Imaging T-Rex system. Some photos of the system :
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Other than border security, Tonbo supplies their systems to other sensitive places in the country too. For example :
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Corporate video giving a brief system overview :

 

Gautam

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India must try to join the Vietnam-Australia party

By virtue of geography, relations between Australia and Vietnam will continue to grow manifold; it will be important for India to keep up with the bonhomie.

By Nehginpao Kipgen and Akash Sahu | New Delhi | December 25, 2019 2:18 pm
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(SNS)

Vietnam in Southeast Asia is one of the best growing economies in the region. The country has become an attractive destination for investments from all over the globe. The trade wars between the US and China have certainly contributed to this outcome. Since the US has stopped cooperating with China in a number of industries, the profitability of manufacturing in China has come down. As the general living standard has also increased, labour is cheaply available in other regions.

This has motivated the manufacturers to find cheaper destinations, such as Vietnam. The government of Vietnam has made a lot of efforts to make the country a good host for incoming investment and companies. Several companies have moved their units across the border to Vietnam from China. This includes tech companies like Nokia, Samsung and Olympus, as well as shoe manufacturers such as Nike and Adidas. Vietnam has particularly attracted interest from Australia in recent times.

They were on the opposite sides of battlefield a few decades back, but now, business has brought the governments together. The visit of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Vietnam in August 2019 was reflective of the increasing bilateral ties. Morrison’s visit to Hanoi was the first for an Australian prime minister since 1994, and it was characterized by cooperation in sectors of business and defence. The bilateral business between the two countries stands at US$14.5 billion a year, and is increasing by the day.

Australia exported $5 billion worth of goods to Vietnam in 2018, while imports stood at $6.1 billion. Australian investment abroad contributes to only 0.1 per cent in Vietnam but it is set to change as more companies are interested in opening their units in Vietnam. Several companies such as ANZ in banking, Austal in shipbuilding, Linfox in logistics, and RMIT International have also entered the Vietnamese business landscape. Australia is also looking to build infrastructure and supply Liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Vietnam. Former Australian rugby player, Wes Maas, has invested in Vietnam and set up a construction unit in the country in July 2019.

The outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City are lined up with warehouses of Japanese and Korean companies. Average wages in Vietnam are as low as one-tenth of Australia. The ease of doing business index for Vietnam is at 69 in 2019. This is against India’s rank of 77. India has lagged behind due to heavy paperwork and land issues. Vietnam has maintained a GDP growth rate of more than 6 per cent since 2000, whereas other neighbouring Southeast Asian countries have faltered badly due to the trade wars.

The electronic items export of South Korea has gone down by 22 per cent. Dr. Guy Debelle, the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, has said that Vietnam is nearing its full capacity. Many businesses are shifting production to Vietnam to avoid the effects of tariffs. Vietnam has granted investment licenses to about 1,720 projects in the first six months of 2019. The economy has grown at the rate of more than seven per cent in 2018, which was a ten-year high. The exports of Australia to China included heavy elements, such as iron and steel, but to Vietnam it includes Australian services, logistics and other products.

An Australian group, Sun- Rice, has set up its unit in Vietnam and is exporting rice to neighbouring countries. This is because Australia does not have free trade agreements for rice with these countries. This is how Vietnam’s free trade policies have helped attract industrialists from Australia. NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant has pointed out the factors that act against India in matters of foreign investment. He has said that the production costs in India are higher than both China and Vietnam.

He is heading a committee expected to make recommendations of improvement of Indian electronic exports. India produced over 140 million handsets in 2010 while Vietnam produced only 38 million. Even though the quality differed, India had a numerical advantage. This has been overturned though, as India’s mobile phone production has gone down to a value of $2.5 billion in 2019, whereas Vietnam’s production of phones has gone up to a staggering $49 billion in 2018. The improved performance of Vietnam has not been limited to mobile phones, it has generally excelled in production of all electronic items.

A key factor in Vietnam that attracts industries is the lucrative corporate tax rate for large firms that are looking to relocate. A few large firms in Vietnam have managed to get tax rates as low as zero for the first five years, 5 per cent for the next decade and 10 per cent for the subsequent two. In comparison, India’s tax rates for a foreign firm could be as high as 43 per cent. The Australian prime minister’s interest in Vietnam is not entirely limited to business; Vietnam is strategically located in the South China Sea, quite uprightly standing up to China.

The defence and military cooperation between the countries was also another check box on Morrison’s list of objectives in his Vietnam visit. Vietnam is going to take a nonpermanent seat in the UN Security Council for 2020-2021 term, and she will also serve as the chair for ASEAN in 2020. She will be the first chair after the adoption of ASEAN’s outlook paper on the Indo-Pacific. It is noteworthy that Australia stands to gain immensely both in terms of security and business as the countries of Indo- Pacific come closer under one umbrella and are able to develop better ties among each other.

A good chunk of Australian business is dependent on the well-being of Southeast Asian economies. In March 2018, Vietnam and Australia upgraded their relationship to strategic partnership. There are possibilities of Australian companies collaborating with Vietnam to explore energy in the Vietnamese waters. A point to note is that India was also a part of this arrangement with Vietnam, however, it withdrew as Chinese objections became prominent. The Australian forces have helped airlift Vietnamese forces in South Sudan, indicating a cooperative defence relationship between the two countries.

In October, Chinese vessels in Vietnamese waters sparked off fresh tensions between the two countries that are embroiled in a large multilateral dispute in South China Sea over who shall control the strategic waters. For India, both Australia and Vietnam are extremely important countries. India has fast growing business and trade with both countries; and it strives to create a strategic balance as they share the same apprehensions about the rise and dominance of China in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

By virtue of geography, relations between Australia and Vietnam will continue to grow manifold; it will be important for India to keep up with the bonhomie. Track 2 dialogue and cooperation would allow for greater opportunities of dialogue and identification of areas of cooperation. India has ample defence expertise as well as hardware. Defence cooperation among the three countries would be a necessity given the volatility of security on India’s northern fronts.

She must be able to secure the Southern front through a system of reliable alliances and stakeholders. Given the prime position of India in the Indo-Pacific region, its security and stability would be a stake for all countries in the region, including Vietnam and Australia. Therefore, trilateral cooperation among the three on business and security can only go in positive direction.

(The writers are, respectively, Associate Professor, Assistant Dean and Executive Director at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University, and a Masters student at the university presently interning at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi)

India must try to join the Vietnam-Australia party
 

Gautam

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There has been some conscious efforts by both Japan and India in the recent past to avoid letting Myanmar drift off towards China. Similar efforts were seem with Sri Lanka too. In case of Myanmar Japan helped with some loans, India with the Kalandan multi modal transit project. Then India with a submarine transfer and sale of torpedoes and Japan with this :

Japan Backs Myanmar’s Claim That No Genocide Occurred in Rakhine State

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Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (center) and Japanese Upper House MP Natsuo Yamaguchi (right) pose for a photo after a meeting in Yangon on Dec. 23. / Myanmar State Counselor’s Office.

By Nan Lwin 27 December 2019

YANGON—Amid mounting international criticism of Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi over her denial of genocide allegations at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Japanese ambassador to Myanmar said his government firmly believes that no genocide was committed in the country, and expressed hope that the court will reject The Gambia’s request that provisional measures be taken against Myanmar.

Japan has become the first country to voice support for Myanmar since the Southeast Asian country’s legal team testified at the World Court, where The Gambia filed a case of genocide over the Rohingya crisis. Other countries including the Netherlands and Canada have stated that in order to uphold international accountability and prevent impunity, they “consider it their obligation to support The Gambia before the ICJ, as it concerns all of humanity.”

“I don’t think that the Myanmar Tatmadaw [military] committed genocide or [had the] intent of genocide. I also don’t think that they have intention to kill all the Muslim residents in Rakhine,” said Ichiro Maruyama, the Japanese ambassador to Myanmar, on Thursday.

He said the actions by the Tatmataw came in response to a series of attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on police outposts in 2016 and 2017.

Echoing what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said at the World Court, the ambassador said Japan doesn’t rule out the possibility that human rights violations occurred in Rakhine State during clashes between the military and ARSA.

“If there were human rights violations, it is important [that Myanmar conduct prosecutions] itself. We will urge the Myanmar government and military to take action seriously,” Maruyama added.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh in late 2017 after the government’s security forces launched clearance operations in northern Rakhine State in response to the attacks by ARSA. UN investigators said the operations had “genocidal intent”. Both the Myanmar government and military have denied the accusations.

In November, The Gambia submitted the genocide case against Myanmar to the World Court. As a preliminary step, the African nation requested the court take provisional measures against Myanmar to prevent further violence.

During three days of initial public hearings in the case, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told the ICJ that no genocide was committed in Myanmar, as defined in international law, and described the Rohingya issue as an “internal conflict”.

In her closing remarks on the last day of hearings, she asked the ICJ to reject either the Rohingya genocide case filed against the country or the provisional measures requested by The Gambia.

Since 2017, Japan has acted as a mediator in the Rohingya repatriation process and it continues to work closely with the Myanmar government on solving the problems in Rakhine State. Last year in October, during her trip to Japan, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi praised the country for its understanding and help during a time when tensions have been high between Myanmar and the rest of the world.

Japan’s official support of Myanmar’s stand in the genocide case followed a visit to Myanmar by Natsuo Yamaguchi, a member of Japan’s Upper House from the country’s Komeito party, which is a member of Japan’s coalition government. The top item on Yamaguchi’s agenda was to explain the Japanese government’s stand on the genocide allegation against Myanmar following the ICJ case.

During his stay in Myanmar from Dec. 21 to 25, Yamaguchi met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. He promised Japan would continue to help Myanmar solve the problems in Rakhine State, according to the Japanese ambassador.

During his meeting with Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the Japanese Upper House MP urged the military to take serious action against those who committed crimes in Rakhine, in accordance with the final report of the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE).

The senior general promised the Japanese MP that the military will take action against human rights violators, saying that if the ICOE found that rights violations occurred, the military will prosecute the offenders.

“We fully believe that the Myanmar military will keep its promise. It is important to investigate and prosecute the people who committed the crimes,” Ambassador Maruyama told the media on Thursday.

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Following her defense of Myanmar against the The Gambia’s genocide allegations, human rights organizations and the international media have portrayed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as an apologist for the Myanmar military. Responding to the criticism, the ambassador said, “We don’t see her that way. She made a decision to go to the court because she knows that it is important that the court identify what really happened [in Rakhine].”

“I really respect her [decision]. I am also very proud of her,” Maruyama said.

“Since there is no genocide in Myanmar, the court has no reason to rule that Myanmar has committed genocide [against the Rohingya]. But it is possible [it will] take provisional measures against Myanmar,” he said.

“We are praying that the court does not take provisional measures. If they [do], Japan will look at ways to help Myanmar handle the process smoothly. This is the Japanese government’s stand for Myanmar,” said the ambassador.

ICJ Presiding Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf said the court would take note of Myanmar’s final submission and render an order regarding the provisional measures “as soon as possible”.

In late November, Myanmar’s military announced it had opened court martial proceedings against a group of soldiers accused of committing atrocities during the 2017 military-led crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. The announcement said the military is cooperating with the ICOE and if the final report found that the soldiers committed rights violations, they would be investigated and prosecuted. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told the World Court that there would be more courts martial when the report is released. The ICOE is set to submit the final report on its special investigation in January.

The ICOE is an independent special-investigation mechanism established by the President of Myanmar to handle allegations of human rights violations and other issues in Rakhine State in the period following the ARSA attacks. Chaired by a former deputy foreign minister from the Philippines, its three other members include a former under secretary-general of the United Nations from Japan.

The ambassador said Japan could not predict how the international community will respond, or whether it will question the credibility of the ICOE. However, the most important thing would be whether the Myanmar government and military take the final report of the ICOE seriously, he said.

“The Tatmadaw will play a vital role in it. We will [hold] further discussions with the Tatmadaw to take against action the people who committed the crimes. We will urge them to do it,” he said.

“By doing this, the final report of the ICOE will earn trust [from the international community],” he added.

“If there is no trust from the international [community] and good relations with them, we cannot expect political stability and economic development in Myanmar. That is the reason that Japan … wants to help the Myanmar government have and rebuild good relations with the international community,” Maruyama stressed.

Despite Rakhine’s tarnished reputation due to the Rohingya crisis, Japan has backed the Myanmar government’s plan to invite both local and foreign investors to Rakhine State in February, as both sides believe improving economic development could solve the state’s issues.

“Some Western countries are [putting] more pressure on Myanmar due to the Rohingya crisis. But our approach is different from them. Our goal is for Myanmar to achieve a democratic transition and economic development,” the ambassador said.

“I think that the West would also like to see it achieve that goal. I don’t think our goals are [so] different,” Maruyama said.

Japan Backs Myanmar’s Claim That No Genocide Occurred in Rakhine State
 
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Gautam

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Deepened cooperation in the Indian Ocean region.
  • United States agreed to join the Milan naval exercise in 2020: India’s annual multilateral naval exercise is held off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the mouth of the Straits of Malacca.
  • Enhanced cooperation with U.S. Central Command and African Command: While no specific steps were articulated in the joint statement, the desire to expand strategic cooperation beyond engagements led by the U.S. Indo Pacific Command is promising.
  • Explored the placement of a U.S. liaison officer at India’s Information Fusion Centre: While this announcement was only to “explore,” the fact that it was included in the joint statement shows that it is under serious consideration. Cooperation in maritime domain awareness, particularly in the Indian Ocean region, is consistently noted as a helpful, positive step in practical defense cooperation.
  • Exercise Tiger Triumph to be held annually: The United States and India announced that the new tri-service military exercise will be held annually.
Enhanced security partnerships.
  • Signed the Industrial Security Annex (ISA): The ISA establishes security protocols to allow the exchange of sensitive defense technologies with the Indian private sector, an important step for future co-development.
  • Pledged to train peacekeepers from Indo-Pacific nations: The United States and India pledged to pick up joint activities to train peacekeeping forces from nations in the Indo-Pacific Region.
  • Installation of secure communications facilities between military branches: The two governments noted the importance of quickly establishing secure communications facilities between both nations’ armies and air forces.

A More Balanced U.S.-India Strategic Partnership
 
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RISING SUN

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Can an 'Asian NATO' deter Chinese ambitions in the Indo-Pacific?
As a new US-led alliance, a potential 'Asian NATO,' takes shape in the Indo-Pacific, Washington still has to motivate its regional allies to counter Beijing's ambition, which for them could mean damaging existing ties with China.

Like the actual NATO, the Quad – the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India – is also led by the US, although its inception could be traced to an idea in 2007 by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who sought to expand the scope of Japan's trilateral strategic dialogue involving Australia and the US, to include India. Although, at the time, New Delhi was still in the early stages of a reorientation away from its non-aligned past towards more robust strategic partnerships with the US and Japan, it seemed enthused with the idea, and in 2007 India invited Australia and Japan, along with Singapore, to participate in the Indo-US combined naval exercise, Malabar.

India & China could find a 21st-century purpose for the aircraft carrier
Back then, China, apparently alerted by the development, issued a demarche to all the four members of the Quad. That seemed to cause the desired effect, Australia, Japan, and Singapore were dropped from Malabar and Australia quietly withdrew from the dialogue. India also dismissed appeals from Japan and the US to revive the Quad, ostensibly in the hope of improving ties with China, and overall support for the Quad seemed to have declined.

A decade later, the Quad is seeing a resurgence. This time, India sought to revive the group after major differences with China over issues like China's Belt and Road initiative which goes through territory disputed by India, China's support for Pakistan, and Sino-India border clashes at Doklam. Japan was reinvited to take part in Malabar, and most recently, the first-ever meeting of the four foreign ministers, hosted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in September 2019, thus elevating the Quad from a forum for senior government officials to ministerial-level dialogue.

Is China counting on US allies' reluctance?
As the US proclaims shared values amongst the four states for a free and open Indo-Pacific and a reaffirmation of the Quad's commitment to common values and cooperation, India and Australia seem reluctant to antagonize China all the way.

For instance, the issue of joint patrols in the South China Sea, a key initiative by the US, and a move that would surely be regarded as a direct challenge to China's position in the region, has not gained traction with both New Delhi and Canberra. India has consistently rejected US proposals for joint patrols while Australia, which is delicately balancing its economic interests with Beijing (China received 34 percent of Australia's total exports in 2016) and its alliance partnership with the United States, has been evasive.

Which is perhaps why the Chinese response to the Quad has been relatively subdued, in contrast to how it stamped its feet in 2007. Instead of a confrontation, Beijing has signaled its intent to improve relations with India by hosting an informal summit between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in 2018. A second informal summit was held at Mamallapuram, India in October 2019. Sino-India relations seem to be on an even keel for now.

And although the Quad, together with the Malabar series of exercises and other combined wargames between the partners, provides New Delhi with additional leverage to deal with an assertive China, India has taken care to "walk slowly" with the Quad to avoid overtly antagonizing Beijing.


The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723), assigned to Commander, Submarine Squadron 15, steams ahead of U.S., Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), and Indian ships during the Malabar 2019 © Global Look Press / US Navy

Hallmarks of a budding military alliance
Discussions at the September ministerial meeting reportedly revolved around the Quad's collective efforts to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific, and also touched on counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, maritime security cooperation, and cybersecurity. These are important developments and a precursor to enhanced military cooperation between the partners.
New Delhi ‘keenly watches’ over Chinese ships sailing across Indian Ocean – Navy chief
The other major development has been a strategic logistics support agreement between India and Australia, likely to be signed during the forthcoming visit of the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to New Delhi in January 2020, and a similar agreement between India and Japan in advanced stages of negotiations. Significantly, India and the US have had a logistics sharing arrangement since 2018. All these agreements will allow the countries to use each other's military bases for logistics support, including food, water, and fuel. Clearly, the extent and depth of political engagements and alignment amongst the Quad states over military cooperation, and keeping the Indo-Pacific region free from Chinese domination, has reached unprecedented levels. But will this evolving 'Asian NATO' deter China from its assertive stance in the region?

All it takes is a careless escalation
Clearly, China is conscious of these realities and perhaps confident of its ties with India and Australia, which explains their muted response to the Quad. But, progress under the Quad, particularly in terms of building military compatibility, a key element in any security alliance, has been significant. Any escalation of regional tensions involving India and China or interference by an emboldened China in India's region of influence in the Indian Ocean or in the South Pacific in Australia's backyard, could drive both countries closer to the Quad. And when that happens, the Quad or the 'Asian NATO' could present a formidable deterrent to China.
Can an 'Asian NATO' deter Chinese ambitions in the Indo-Pacific?
 

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Australia PM inclined to cancel India trip due to bushfire crisis

January 3, 2020 / 8:33 AM / Updated 6 hours ago
By Wayne Cole; Editing by Shri Navaratnam
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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said he was inclined to cancel an official trip to India planned for this month in order to deal with a bushfire crisis ravaging parts of his country.

Asked by reporters if it was appropriate to leave Australia given the situation, Morrison said he was “inclined not to proceed” with the visit.

Morrison was due to visit India from Jan 13 to 16 at the invitation of Prime Minister Modi.

He was also due to visit Japan from January 16 to 17, but did not mention his intentions on that on Friday.

Australia PM inclined to cancel India trip due to bushfire crisis
 
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Gautam

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Not exactly on topic but related :

Jokowi vows 'no compromise' on Natuna standoff with China

Tensions rise around Indonesian water bordering the South China Sea

ERWIDA MAULIA, Nikkei staff writer
January 07, 2020; 15:22 JST

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at a summit in Beijing in 2017. The countries are involved in a spat over waters bordering the South China Sea. ©Reuters.

JAKARTA -- President Joko Widodo reasserted Indonesia's claim to its exclusive economic zone in the Natuna Sea -- a water that borders the South China Sea -- as Chinese and Indonesian vessels remain in a standoff in the area.

"In regards to Natuna... there is no compromise when it comes to our nation's territorial sovereignty," Widodo said on Monday at his first cabinet meeting of the year at the presidential palace in Jakarta.

Tensions have been rising over the past week after a number of Chinese fishing boats escorted by two coast guard ships and a fishery patrol vessel entered waters north of the Natuna Islands. Indonesia has dispatched two warships and is planning to send more, according to the chief of a local navy command, as quoted by state news wire Antara on Sunday.

Beijing has no territorial claims over the islands, but says waters off their northern coasts are part of its traditional fishing grounds around the Spratly Islands -- a focal point in Beijing's South China Sea disputes with several other Southeast Asian nations.

Indonesia has repeatedly said it is not a claimant to the South China Sea, but over the past few years it has increasingly locked horns with China over the Natuna waters. Susi Pudjiastuti, Widodo's fisheries minister from 2014 to 2019, aggressively seized -- and in some cases blew up -- foreign fishing vessels, including Chinese, caught poaching in Indonesian waters.

Last week, Indonesia's foreign ministry sent a diplomatic note to Beijing to strongly protest the Chinese vessels' latest actions in the Natuna Sea. On Monday, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi reiterated Jakarta's stance, telling China to abide by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or Unclos, including its clauses on exclusive economic zones.

"Indonesia will never acknowledge the Nine Dash Lines claimed by China," Marsudi told reporters in Jakarta. "This is clearly our sovereign right... the lines we drew for Indonesia's EEZ are in line with the Unclos. All we want is for China as a party to Unclos is to abide by what's in there."

Meanwhile, chief security minister, Mahfud MD, said the navy will step up regular patrols around the Natuna Sea in the wake of the latest incident. Mahfud also has reportedly had the Indonesian Fishermen Association agree to dispatch 500 fishing vessels to Natuna to help secure the area.

Beijing says it has not violated international law. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Chinese fishermen's activities on the Natuna Sea have been "all along legal and legitimate," and the Chinese coast guards accompanying them are only carrying out their duties.

"I want to stress that China's position and propositions comply with the international law, including Unclos," Geng told a news conference in Beijing last week. "So whether the Indonesian side accepts it or not, nothing will change the objective fact that China has rights and interests over the relevant waters."

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But Widodo's government is far from united on the standoff, especially as Indonesia attempts to tread carefully on the issue as it continues to court Chinese investment.

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and chief maritime minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, have been criticized by the public on social media for playing down the issue.

Pandjaitan, who oversees investment matters and is seen as Beijing-friendly, last week said there is "no need to blow up" the Natuna dispute, and that it is Indonesia's fault for not installing enough patrols in the waters. After the cabinet meeting on Monday, he said the EEZ is an economic matter, which is separate from the issue of sovereignty.

Meanwhile Subianto, who visited Beijing last month, surprised many by saying China is a "good friend." His remarks contradict his intense anti-China rhetoric while running against Widodo in April's presidential election.

Many Indonesians have lamented Widodo's decision to replace Pudjiastuti, who was popular for her aggressive hunt on poachers, which have lurked in Indonesian waters for decades, causing trillions of rupiah in annual losses.

The new fisheries minister, a politician from Subianto's Gerindra Party, is seen as more docile and has been blamed for reduced patrols and allowing illegal fishing vessels to return to Indonesian waters.

The Jakarta-Beijing dispute over the Natuna Sea goes back to March 2016 when Chinese coast guards attacked an Indonesian patrol vessel for illegal fishing following an Indonesia interception of a Chinese-flagged fishing boats in the area. In 2017, Indonesia angered Beijing by renaming waters north of Natuna Islands the North Natuna Sea. And in December 2018, Indonesia established a new military base on the islands.

Additional reporting by Ismi Damayanti in Jakarta.

Jokowi vows 'no compromise' on Natuna standoff with China
 

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Need for multilateralism

Thursday, 09 January 2020 | Vikas Kalyani
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The Indo-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean in particular have become the epicentre of geopolitics and India has emerged as a key player.(Photo : India-Australia naval exercise)

In recent days, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced efforts to strengthen Australia’s involvement in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the importance of working with India in defence and other activities. Speaking at the 2019, Raisina Dialogue in Delhi — a geopolitical conference co-hosted by the India — Payne said: “Our respective futures are intertwined and heavily dependent on how well we cooperate on the challenges and opportunities in the Indian Ocean in the decades ahead.”

In terms of global political significance, the Atlantic Ocean can be viewed as the ocean of our grandparents and parents; the Pacific Ocean as our ocean and that of our children; and the Indian Ocean as the ocean of our children and grandchildren. There is an obvious sense in which the region is the future. The average age of people in the region’s countries is under 30, compared to 38 in the US and 46 in Japan. The countries bordering the Indian Ocean are home to 2.5 billion people, which is one-third of the world’s population.

Having heard the Australian Minister and read a few expert comments from Australian scholars of international affairs, it becomes clear that Indo-Pacific in general and the Indian Ocean in particular is being viewed as the epicentre of geopolitics and India as the key player in this region. The need of economic partnership among the littorals is of utmost importance while having a collaborated approach to address geopolitical risks. India, being the largest country, has a logical role to play as a leader bringing the nations of IOR on multilateral platforms.

Multi-nation platforms

There are multi-nation platforms existing, which have mutual growth as their aim but their effectiveness is questionable when compared to other oceanic platforms. For example, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) was established by nations bordering the Bay of Bengal in 1997. In more than two decades, it is still gaining momentum but cannot be compared with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Australia, along with 21 other border states, is a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) which seeks to promote sustainable economic growth, trade liberalisation and security. Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper seeks to support IORA in areas such as maritime security and international law. It also aims at strengthening its ties in the region such as with India and Indonesia —and also build new connections, particularly in Africa.

It brings out the Australian perspective which is outreaching and focuses on multilateral cooperation with the stakeholders. The Indian perspective becomes clear from the Foreign Secretary’s words: “The challenges we all face today, and all of us know this, whether they be the traditional security issues such as nuclear proliferation, armed conflict and so on, or newer non-traditional issues such as terrorism, migration and refugee flows and environmental degradation — all of these, in our view, require more, and not less, multilateralism. India’s vision of engagement in the Indo-Pacific region will be based on the values of peace, stability and prosperity on a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific with the ASEAN regional bloc central to the concept, which serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large. Our Prime Minister’s articulation of the vision of SAGAR — ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’ will continue to provide the basis for our maritime engagement.”

Cooperation is key to maritime security

Maritime security is a major challenge for the poorer coastal and island countries of the IOR. In particular those that have large zones of maritime jurisdiction. There are 48 independent countries in the region, including hinterland and landlocked states of East Africa and South Asia. There are 18 in Africa, 11 in the Middle East, seven in South Asia, six in Southeast Asia, five island states and Australia. Managing maritime security is a challenging endeavour. It requires cooperation between regional countries and between those with a stake in regional security. Maritime security is no longer the sole prerogative of navies with more non-military agencies now involved.

Maritime security is a priority for the IORA, currently the main regional organisation for economic and security cooperation. It recently committed its members to working on increasing cooperation among navies and other maritime security forces in the region. The plan is to do this collaboratively with the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a voluntary initiative by India to address shared maritime security challenges and threats.

However IONS’ main focus has been on naval cooperation and it has been successful in terms of bringing navies and coastal security forces together in the form of joint exercises. There is some scepticism about the symposium’s ability to make a broader contribution to maritime security.

Defence cooperation

The Foreign Minister of Australia also pointed to increasing defence activities in the Indian Ocean, noting that in 2014, Australia and India had conducted 11 defence activities together, with the figure reaching 38 in 2018. This shows the positive approach from Australian counterparts to build a strong security-oriented partnership with India.

In 2018, the Indian Air Force (IAF), for the first time, participated with fighter aircraft in Exercise Pitch Black that was conducted in Australia. During the transit to Australia, the IAF contingent also had constructive engagement with Indonesian and Malaysian air forces. In recent times the IAF has shown its capabilities of reaching anywhere within the IOR at an unimaginable short notice and also has undertaken exercises across the bays around, so as to make itself familiar with the region. In its pan-India exercise Gagan Shakti-2018, special attention was given to maritime air operations. The operation was the largest-ever series of air exercises conducted by the IAF. It crucially demonstrated an air operational range with the help of air-to-air refuelling by the IL-78 Flight Refuelling Aircraft (FRA). The Su-30s, airborne from a base on the eastern coast, engaged multiple targets towards the western seaboard of India at distances beyond 2,500 km and landed at a southern base, thus covering a total distance of 4,000 km in a single mission, which is less than average distance between India and many IOR countries.

Among other defence cooperations, the air forces of two nations can work together by using the respective island territories as regular refuelling halts during ferries or conduct joint exercises with navies of friendly countries around. For example the Cocos Keeling Island and Christmas Island (Australian external territory) have 8,000 and 7,000 feet runways respectively which are fit for operations by all kind of aircraft.

They are located south of Indonesia and almost midway between India and Australia. The distance between Port Blair and these islands is 2,675 km and 2,833 km respectively. Similarly, Andaman and Nicobar Islands can be used by the Australian Air Force for the same purpose. With these kinds of practices of using island runways and conducting joint exercises, the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in actual contingencies will be conducted more efficiently when time is a critical factor and decision-making delays cannot be afforded. The same is applicable for any other contingency which imposes challenge to safety and security of IOR countries.

Security and growth for all through multilateralism is the only viable solution against problems arising in today’s geostrategic scenario because of unilateralism and trade wars. India’s active and frequent friendly engagements with IOR countries’ armed forces will boost the confidence of all the participants as well as the littoral countries and will give stability to the maritime security of the IOR. The IAF thus can prove itself to be an important tool in furthering the vision of SAGAR.

(The writer is a senior research fellow at the India Foundation)

Need for multilateralism
 

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Realizing the Potential of Island Territories: A Perspective from Delhi
As countries in the Indo-Pacific continue to deepen maritime collaborations between friends, partners, and allies, the island territories in the region are well-positioned to offer tremendous support and strategic leverage to India and its partners. Island territories in particular facilitate a greater maritime presence, help generate a common picture for maritime domain awareness (MDA), and allow for new strategic collaborations.

Across the Indo-Pacific, and particularly in the Indian Ocean, the Western Pacific, and the South Pacific, there is a growing concern about the development of possible Chinese military bases, or commercial ports with strategic significance, within island states. The resident powers and traditional security providers across these subregions—India, the United States, Japan, Australia, and France—are wary of new Chinese military bases or influence that might undermine their strategic advantages. But despite their rush to secure their strategic interests and maintain their advantages, these countries have thus far failed to fully tap into the potential of their island territories, both individually and collectively.

Together, the resident powers have access to a set of island territories that occupy key chokepoints across the Indo-Pacific. The United States’ base at Diego Garcia and France’s at La Reunion Island are positioned to support operations in the Southern and Western Indian Ocean; Australia’s Cocos (Keeling) Islands look over the approaches to the Sunda, Lombok, Ombai, and Wetar Straits from the Indian Ocean; and India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands provide access to the Malacca Straits. The Japanese and U.S. bases on Okinawa watch over the Taiwan Strait, while U.S. facilities at Guam, Wake Island, and Hawaii combine with France’s in French Polynesia and New Caledonia to provide unmatched access across the Pacific. Reciprocal access and logistics agreements concluded in recent years would, theoretically, allow India and its partners to navigate and utilize this entire network of islands.

These island territories provide two critical benefits for India and its partners:

  1. Maritime Domain Awareness
Many of these island territories sit close to chokepoints such as the Strait of Malacca and the Mozambique Channel. The ability to be present in these areas and carry out MDA operations will allow partner navies to develop a more coherent picture of what is happening on the water—a priority for all in the region. The information generated through MDA missions is useful in dealing with both traditional and non-traditional threats. MDA allows one to track the increasing military presence from competing nations as well as monitor non-traditional threats such as illegal fishing and drug smuggling. While information on sub-surface vessels might be of particular interest for the traditional players in the region, like India and the United States, information on illegal fishing and non-traditional challenges are of keen interest to island states—key stakeholders in the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.

  1. Presence
Most navies place significant emphasis on maintaining presence near chokepoints for protecting sea lines of communication and securing strategic and economic interests. Given the vast scope of the Indo-Pacific, coordination between these nations and access to each other’s facilities allows them to be present in areas far from their own shores. For instance, India’s access to Reunion Island allows the Indian Navy to maintain a presence in the western Indian Ocean, including the east coast of Africa—an area where Indian Navy engagements and presence are limited. Such access and coordination are made available through appropriate agreements such as the 2016 Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement between India and the United States. India has signed logistics agreements with France, Singapore and South Korea. Concluding similar agreements with Tokyo and Canberra should be a priority for Delhi.

As India explores deeper collaborations with its maritime partners, it should look to capitalize on the advantages provided by these island territories. One potential opportunity lies in the growing interoperability between air components of the Indian Navy and its partners. India, Australia, and the United States all share variations of the Boeing P-8 aircraft used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes. This could be leveraged during bilateral and multilateral exercises. For example, India and Australia could use their respective P-8s to fly between the Cocos and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands during their bilateral exercise, AUSINDEX. Similarly, India, the United States, and Japan could use their respective aircraft to fly between the Andamans and either Diego Garcia, Okinawa, or Guam as part of Exercise Malabar, or as part of JIMEX for India and Japan. Delhi and Paris have already effected such an arrangement for Exercise Varuna, which in 2018 made use of Reunion Island. As I have argued previously, these engagements “would allow Delhi to signal intent, show force and presence, and generate MDA over a large area covering key sub-regions and critical chokepoints.”

Their island territories are well placed to support the converging maritime interests among India and its friends. In particular, these territories strengthen Delhi’s presence across the Indian Ocean and help expand its reach in the wider Indo-Pacific without the need for new bases or facilities for which India has neither the capital nor the political will. Moreover, the access, presence, and security provided by these island territories allow New Delhi to focus on security concerns – primarily non-traditional in nature- prioritized by island nations in the Indo-Pacific. In the emerging new geopolitical competition in the maritime domain, island territories will play a significant role- a development Delhi and its partners must acknowledge and understand to secure their own strategic interests.
Realizing the Potential of Island Territories: A Perspective from Delhi | Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative
 
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For example, India and Australia could use their respective P-8s to fly between the Cocos and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands during their bilateral exercise, AUSINDEX. Similarly, India, the United States, and Japan could use their respective aircraft to fly between the Andamans and either Diego Garcia, Okinawa, or Guam as part of Exercise Malabar, or as part of JIMEX for India and Japan. Delhi and Paris have already effected such an arrangement for Exercise Varuna, which in 2018 made use of Reunion Island. As I have argued previously, these engagements “would allow Delhi to signal intent, show force and presence, and generate MDA over a large area covering key sub-regions and critical chokepoints.”
Stationing a few of our P-8Is on the Coco Island and operating from there to the Andaman and vice versa is increasingly becoming a common idea. We've seen some Austrailian think tanks propose the same, then American and Indian. Maybe this will happen in the near future.
 

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India and the Philippines: A New Chapter in Defense Ties ?

While strategic interactions have traditionally been quite shallow, there are some indications of a more promising future for relations.

By Jeff M. Smith
January 09, 2020
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Credit: Flickr/meaindia

Despite the stark difference in size and population, on paper India and the Philippines would appear to make natural partners. They are both noisy Indo-Pacific democracies current ruled by controversial but popular leaders. The Philippines is a treaty ally of the United States while India is one of America’s closest strategic partners. Manila and Delhi are both engaged in active territorial disputes with Beijing, and both are (mostly) invested in the rules-based order. In practice, however, strategic interactions between Delhi and Manila have traditionally been quite shallow.

That’s true of many of India’s relationships in East and Southeast Asia, though it’s gradually changing under a reinvigorated “Act East” policy launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. In recent years Delhi has strengthened ties with traditional partners like Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore while conducting new forms of outreach to Indonesia, South Korea, and Australia. Is India looking to add the Philippines to the list ? In 2019, there were two signals that suggest it might.

First, from May 2-8, 2019, the navies of the Philippines and India joined those from the United States and Japan in a quadrilateral joint sail through the contested South China Sea. India dispatched a destroyer and tanker for the exercise while the Philippines sent a patrol vessel. The ships, transiting from South Korea to Singapore, engaged in “formation exercises, communication drills, passenger transfers, and [a] leadership exchange.” The exercise overlapped with a U.S. freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea challenging illegal Chinese claims there. While it was a low-level exercise from a technical standpoint, India’s participation carried geopolitical significance. Delhi has traditionally been reticent to join multi-participant naval exercises that could be interpreted as provocative toward China, particularly in contested seas.

Second, in December 2019, Filipino Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that the Philippines was interested in purchasing from India two batteries of Brahmos missiles, an advanced cruise missile co-developed by Indian and Russian defense firms. Lorenzana suggested a contract would be forthcoming in 2020, “possibly on the first or second quarter,” saying the missile would be “the first Philippine weaponry with deterrent capability.” It would also mark the first Brahmos export deal for the Indian government, which has been unsuccessful in courting buyers, despite a decade of on-again-off-again talks with Vietnam.

Manila and Delhi: The Backstory

I contributed to a study published earlier this year by the RAND Corporation, “The Thickening Web of Asian Security Cooperation: Deepening Defense Ties Among U.S. Allies and Partners in the Indo-Pacific.” It examined India’s defense and strategic ties with several East and Southeast Asian powers, including Japan, Australia, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea, and Indonesia. One of the early takeaways: India’s ties with the Philippines were among the least developed in the region. Indeed, India has formed “Strategic Partnerships” of varying character with all capitals in the study; the Philippines was the only exception.

Despite establishing diplomatic relations in November 1949 and signing a Treaty of Friendship in July 1952, relations between India and the Philippines were insubstantial through much of the 20th century. As my co-author, Greg Poling, wrote in the RAND study:

India historically has not played much role in Philippine strategic thinking, foreign policy, economics, or security cooperation. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, religious and cultural linkages, shared British colonial legacies, and a large Indian diaspora helped maintain ties to the subcontinent throughout the twentieth century, even as New Delhi lacked an effective diplomatic or economic presence in the region. But none of those are major factors in Philippine society.

The pace of high-level political and defense exchanges did begin to increase in the 1990s following the launch of India’s “Look East” policy, with head-of-state exchanges in 1991, 1997, 2006, and 2007. Leaders from both countries also periodically met on the sidelines of major regional gatherings, including in 2007, 2012, and 2014.

During a 2006 meeting between the two countries’ presidents, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defense and Security Cooperation and established several high-level commissions and dialogues. By the mid-2010s the two had established a Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation, a Joint Committee on Defense Cooperation, a new foreign policy consultations and security dialogue, and a joint working group on counterterrorism. At a meeting of the joint defense committee in March 2017, the two discussed “significant regional security concerns,” including tensions in South China Sea and Indian Ocean piracy.

India and the Philippines have also begun holding regular intelligence exchange meetings on a range of sensitive issues. India trains Filipino foreign service officers at its Foreign Service Institute, and the two have begun conducting military training exchanges, including India hosting a 34-member Filipino military delegation for a week-long training course in 2016. The first exchange among their respective National Defense Colleges was conducted in India in 2013 and a delegation from the Indian College of Defense Management visited the Philippines the same year. Indian warships have also become frequent visitors to the Philippines on their regular deployments to the South China Sea.

In November 2017, the two countries witnessed a breakthrough when Modi became the first Indian leader to visit the Philippines in 36 years. In Manila, Modi attended the ASEAN and East Asian Summits and met with President Rodrigo Duterte, where the two signed an agreement to boost cooperation in defense and logistics. Two months later, Duterte was welcomed in Delhi for Republic Day celebrations along with the leaders of other ASEAN member states. The Filipino defense secretary traveled to Delhi in March 2018, and the Philippines participated in India’s annual Defense Expo the following month.

Despite this progress, and expressed interest from both sides, the two have found little success to date in boosting cooperation in defense sales or co-production. This is a least partly a product of broader problems afflicting India’s defense export industry and partly a product of the Philippines’ underdeveloped military capabilities, among the weakest in the region.

Notably, in 2015 an Indian firm bid on a $400 million contract to provide two light frigates for the Philippine Navy. India’s state-owned, Kolkata-based Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) reportedly submitted the most competitive bid but “failed to meet financial requirements in post-qualification assessments by the Philippine Navy.” Specifically, the Philippine Navy insisted on paying in full on delivery of the warships and assessed GRSE “did not have adequate funds available” to construct the vessels without supporting payments. India’s defense ministry requested diplomatic intervention, but the deal failed to materialize.

Once second only to Vietnam in raising alarm about Chinese activities in the South China Sea, Manila has assumed a much more submissive demeanor toward Beijing since firebrand Rodrigo Duterte was elected president in 2016.

Prior to Duterte’s victory, India appeared to be drifting closer to the Philippines. In 2015, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made an unusual reference to the South China Sea as the “West Philippine Sea” in a joint statement with her Filipino counterpart. A year later, India supported an UNCLOS Arbital Tribunal ruling that found in favor of the Philippines and invalidated many of China’s claims in the South China Sea. However, Duterte’s high-profile charm offensive toward Beijing — which included largely abandoning the Tribunal award — may have limited the room for strategic convergence with India on broader geopolitical questions.

Duterte, who has casually joked about raping women and called each of President Obama, the Pope, and God “son of a bitch” on different occasions, has openly courted Chinese President Xi Jinping since assuming office. In February 2019 Duterte explained that Xi was a “man of honor” while quipping the Philippines was “already a province…of China. The nearest [province] is Fujian.”

Notably, Duterte’s more benevolent views of Beijing are not shared by the Filipino public or military establishment. In a January 2019 Pulse Asia survey, 84 percent of Filipinos surveyed expressed trust in the United States; only 39 percent felt China was trustworthy. In a December 2019 Pew survey, 64 percent felt the United States could be relied upon as a dependable ally. Only 9 percent said the same for China while 62 percent saw it as the greatest threat to their country.

Nor has Duterte’s courtship of China delivered the benefits he anticipated. When the Filipino president visited Beijing in 2016, he signed 27 deals with Xi, including $24 billion in pledged Chinese investments. An assessment two years later found “barely any projects have materialized, prompting deep concerns that President Rodrigo Duterte has undermined the country’s sovereignty with little to show in return.” By one count, during Duterte’s first year in office, U.S. ($160 million) and Japanese ($600 million) investments in the Philippines dwarfed those of China ($31 million).

Meanwhile, provocative Chinese maritime activities in the Philippines maritime space have only increased. As one Filipino analyst summarized:

China now patrols Philippine seas and air space. Its coast guard controls entry into and the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal, 120 miles off Luzon. Paramilitary fleets increasingly are fishing in the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Warships venture close to Zambales and Mindoro in the West Philippine Sea. Chinese aircraft regularly confront Philippine flights to Pag-asa Island in Palawan’s Kalayaan Island Group. Maritime research vessels are exploring the Philippine western seabed as well as Benham Rise off Cagayan, and Samar and Surigao in the east. All these are in breach of international law.

Even senior figures in the Duterte administration have begun to voice their dissatisfaction. In April 2019, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin lamented: “What is disappointing is that despite our friendliness and uninterrupted friendship, China continually embarrasses our government by swarming all over OUR exclusive economic zone.” The same month Manila announced it would be blocking Chinese firms from bidding on purchasing the Philippines largest shipyard at Subic Bay over national security concerns.

Despite this pushback, Manila’s more China-friendly posture is unlikely to change so long as Rodrigo Duterte remains president. On the other hand, it’s possible that whoever succeeds him in 2022 will adopt a more traditional foreign policy posture less skeptical of the United States, more apprehensive about China, and potentially more enthusiastic about strengthening cooperation with India. In the meantime, more joint naval drills and an arms deal would provide India a much-needed win in the region and the Philippines a boost to its lagging military capabilities.

Jeff M. Smith is a Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

India and the Philippines: A New Chapter in Defense Ties?
 

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India's Su-30 Jets Are Now Armed With Nuclear BrahMos Cruise Missiles

What happens when the world’s most capable fourth generation fighter is armed with a uniquely destructive cruise missile?

by Zachary Keck
January 9, 2020
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Key Point: The Brahmos-armed Su-30s is only one of the ways that India is strengthening its strategic deterrent.

India’s nuclear command has begun receiving fighter jets armed with the country’s most advanced, supersonic cruise missile.

According to media reports, India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) has begun receiving 42 Su-30MKI air dominance fighters modified to carry air-launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. This will significantly enhance the striking power of the air leg of India’s nuclear triad.

“Individually, the Su-30 and BrahMos are powerful weapons,” Russia and India Report noted. “But when the world’s most capable fourth generation fighter is armed with a uniquely destructive cruise missile, together they are a dramatic force multiplier.”

The Sukhoi Su-30 MKI is a twin-seater, highly maneuverable, fourth-generation multirole combat fighter aircraft built by Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau and licensed to India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The plane will serve as the backbone of India’s Air Force through 2020 and beyond. Delhi has already acquired around 200 jets, and eventually plans to acquire 282 of them.

The Brahmos is jointly developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia. Capable of traveling at speeds of Mach 3.0, the Brahmos is the fastest cruise missile in the world. As Russia and India Report explained, “The BrahMos’ 3000 km per hour speed – literally faster than a bullet – means it hits the target with a huge amount of kinetic energy. In tests, the BrahMos has often cut warships in half and reduced ground targets to smithereens.”

The same report notes that the Su-30 will add to the Brahmos’ already deadly effect. “The Sukhoi’s blistering speed will add extra launch momentum to the missile, plus the aircraft’s ability to penetrate hardened air defences means there is a greater chance for the pilot to deliver the missile on to its designated targets.”

Pairing the Su-30 with the Brahmos missile will also drastically expand the striking power of the air leg of India’s nuclear triad. The Su-30 itself has a range of up to 1,800 kilometers while the Brahmos missile can strike targets nearly 300 kilometers away. Thus, the newly modified Su-30s will allow India’s nuclear aircraft to strike deep in the heart of China or Pakistan, Delhi’s two main adversaries.

The plan to modify the Su-30 to carry the Brahmos missiles was first hatched back in 2010 when the SFC submitted a proposal for two squadrons of Su-30s to be put under its command. Later, in 2012, India’s cabinet approved the project to modify 42 Su-30s to carry 216 Brahmos missiles. According to the Times of India, the integration project was mostly carried out by BrahMos Aerospace, with HAL also contributing crucial modifications.

The first of the new planes was handed over to the SFC in February and is believed to have undergone tests last month. Production on the second of the modified Su-30s has already begun. It is unclear when the SFC expects to receive the rest of the planes.

The Brahmos-armed Su-30s is only one of the ways that India is strengthening its strategic deterrent. It has also been busy testing the Agni-V, which is three-stage solid-fueled intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) with a range of about 5,000 km. When the Agni-V is inducted into service, India will have the ability to strike any part of China with nuclear weapons for the first time. Furthermore, India is currently testing ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), which will complete the nuclear triad.

India's Su-30 Jets Are Now Armed With Nuclear BrahMos Cruise Missiles
 

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Long read but totally worth the time :

Strengthening Delhi’s Strategic Partnerships in the Indian Ocean

By Darshana M. Baruah
October 23, 2019
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Introduction

The Indian Ocean region (IOR) is a critical juncture of the wider Indo-Pacific. It is one of the most crucial trade corridors that links the Middle East, Europe, Africa, South Asia, and Southeast and Northeast Asia. As outlined by the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the Indian Ocean is "[h]ome to nearly 2.7 billion people … carrying half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic, and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments."1 After the Cold War, the Indian Ocean remained relatively peaceful, with minimal geopolitical competition. India and the United States have been the primary actors in the theater and largely accepted each other’s presence and operations. After the Cold War, Washington welcomed a greater Indian role, with then–U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates encouraging India to be a "net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond."2 However, as China continues to expand its presence and deepen its engagements across the Indo-Pacific, there is a new geopolitical competition emerging in the Indian Ocean. While India perceives a growing Chinese presence as competition to its strategic and security role in the IOR, Beijing is determined to stake its claim and emerge as a key player in the IOR. This ambition feeds into China’s larger objective of becoming a global maritime power.

India has a vital interest in the Indian Ocean, and as one of the IOR’s most prominent resident naval powers, its role in the IOR has been critical to maintaining peace and security. As China continues to expand its engagements and presence across the IOR, Delhi is beginning to review its maritime engagements and policies.3 Much of Delhi’s advantage is rooted in geography and operational experience, whereas it suffers from serious capacity constraints. Should China manage to find the means and ways to sustain itself in the region and gain experience operating there, it will be able to quickly overcome India’s advantages. Given that neither India nor China is looking to engage in a military conflict to establish dominance, strategic signaling, positioning, power projection, and enhanced operational capabilities will be key to enabling India to maintain a favorable position in the IOR in the next decade or so.

As India continues to modernize its military, engaging with key partners will strengthen its ability to address emerging threats and China’s expanding presence in the IOR. This paper first explores India’s current approach to IOR choke-points and how Delhi can leverage strategic partnerships to shore up its advantages in the IOR. It then identifies presence, maritime domain awareness, strategic collaborations, innovation, and nontraditional threats as the key areas where India can maximize its maritime partnerships to prepare for, deter, and respond to a more assertive China in the IOR.

India’s Current Approach

The Indian Navy places great importance on the Indian Ocean’s many maritime choke-points. These are among the most strategically valuable choke-points in the world, as they are crucial for access and transit to critical markets, partners, and regions. The Indian Navy lists the following choke-points as its primary areas of interest, which highlights the need to control and deny these access points to an adversary in times of a conflict.4
  • Malacca and Singapore Straits: link the IOR to the South and East China Seas and the Western Pacific.
  • Indonesian straits of Sunda, Lombok, and Ombai Wetar serve as alternate routes to the Indian Ocean from the Pacific Ocean and an especially critical route for submarines, which can transit submerged and undetected.
  • Strait of Hormuz: connects the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the Middle East to the Arabian Sea, opening to the Indian Ocean.
  • Bab-el-Mandeb: connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, opening to the IOR.
  • Suez Canal: connects Europe to Asia via the IOR.
  • Mozambique Channel: serves as an alternate route to the Suez Canal as well as for vessels transiting the Cape of Good Hope to Asia, Australia, and beyond. It is also strategically important for access and presence in the waters off the eastern coast of Africa.
Maritime Security Strategy (MSS) states, "In times of heightened readiness or conflict, for conduct of maritime operations, sea lines of communication (SLOCs) would acquire increased importance, both for India and the adversary, necessitating measures for protection and interdiction respectively."5 In times of conflict, SLOC protection is a critical mission to ensure continuity in military reach, national trade and insulate the economy from the direct consequences of war. During peacetime, Indian naval presence along these SLOCs and international shipping lanes is an important contribution to greater regional stability. To protect these strategic foci and deploy effective A2/AD during conflicts, the Indian Navy must be able to maintain its presence across key choke-points and be aware of all developments in and around the SLOCs. While not all of the choke-points are geographically close to Indian maritime assets, to exert credible influence, the Indian Navy needs to maintain its presence across key choke-point in the IOR at all times.

Following the 2015 MSS, the Indian Navy began executing mission-based deployment (MBD) in mid-2017 with an aim to increase visibility and presence across the IOR.6 The MBD concept deploys mission-ready ships at seven key locations in the IOR, overseeing all entry and exit points in the region. As per the operational deployment, an Indian naval ship is always present near the Straits of Malacca, in the north Bay of Bengal and Andaman chain of islands, between North Andaman and South Nicobar, near the Strait of Hormuz and north Arabian Sea, near the Gulf of Aden connecting the Bab-el-Mandeb, in the South Indian Ocean between Maldives and Sri Lanka, and in the Southwest Indian Ocean off Mauritius and Seychelles.7 Such deployments allow Delhi to increase its visibility, create domain awareness, and respond to threats and challenges quickly. MBD also strengthens India’s role as a net security provider.

While MBD has allowed the Indian Navy to increase its presence, sustainability is also critical for effective deterrence and signaling. Given the pace of geopolitical developments in the IOR, India will feel the need to increase and sustain its presence across the IOR within the next decade or so. The scope and mandate for MBD is vast. Being constantly present across key choke-points in the IOR requires considerable resources and investments. Although the Indian Navy has been able to maintain a presence across the identified areas in the IOR, it must also be able to sustain this presence while carrying out operations and missions it has envisioned in its MBD policy. India can leverage its maritime partnerships to bolster its presence, operations, and engagements across the key checkpoints. India’s official foreign policy does not allow overseas bases, although its Navy requires access to logistics facilities closer to its area of operations to effectively carry out missions. Logistics facilities strengthen the Navy’s ability to deliver its objectives and protect its strategic goals. These facilities are also essential for sustaining the air accompaniment required to bolster the navy’s ability to respond to threats as well as gain maritime awareness. Logistics facilities in the vicinity of these choke-points will become crucial for the Indian Navy.

Strengthening India’s Partnerships for a More Sustainable Presence in the Indian Ocean
Region


India must look to its strategic partners for the logistical support and access points necessary for sustained presence and operational capacity to advance India’s strategic goals in the IOR. In return, as a net security provider, India can take the lead in maintaining a rules-based order addressing common challenges and securing overlapping interests of a more-distant France, Japan, and Australia, and an over-extended America. Now that India has signed logistics exchange agreements with France and the United States, it must find ways to sign similar agreements with other strategic partners in the region such as Australia and the United Kingdom and to maximize opportunities to boost its presence and create advantages in the IOR.

As the geopolitical competition with China continues to intensify within the IOR, Delhi will require access to partners’ military logistics facilities to sustain a naval presence across key parts of this vast geography. Delhi draws a distinction between overseas bases (which it does not allow on principle) and logistics facilities (which it would be open to sharing or establishing).8 While India irons out the mainly political- and capital-related challenges in setting up new logistics facilities, it can certainly gain from leveraging the facilities of its international partners.

France is a key partner for operations along the western Indian Ocean and the eastern coast of Africa. With its overseas territory of La Reunion and military presence in Djibouti and Abu Dhabi, Paris provides access to three key choke-points.9 While India’s access to French bases in Djibouti and Abu Dhabi will require the additional consent of the host nations, the French overseas region of La Reunion already provides strategic access over the southwest Indian Ocean and the Mozambique Channel. Deploying India’s maritime reconnaissance aircraft and P-8Is from France’s base in La Reunion would help the Indian Navy boost its presence in the western Indian Ocean and the eastern coast of Africa, currently a weak point in India’s presence and operations.

Similarly, the United States has a presence in Bahrain and Diego Garcia—strategic points in the IOR. If India is able to gain access to these facilities through its partners, it can conduct critical surveillance, monitoring, and reconnaissance missions through its P-8I engagements. Strategic islands such as the Andaman and Nicobar chain and Diego Garcia provide significant advantages to the Indian and U.S. Navies. The two countries can leverage their mutual use of the P-8 to strengthen their partnership through mutually agreed access to these facilities. While both sides’ political will to open up these strategic islands to one another might be low, Washington and Delhi stand to benefit significantly, especially in bolstering maritime domain awareness (MDA) capabilities. India and the United States perhaps could use the opportunity of the Malabar exercises, an annual U.S.-India-Japan military exercise, to fly their respective P-8s between Andaman and Nicobar Island, Diego Garcia and possibly Okinawa. Such exercises will not only demonstrate the significance of collaborative MDA missions, but also provide the opportunity to build trust and deepen such strategic collaborations.

India should also look to make a logistics agreement with Japan. While Tokyo has a limited presence in the IOR, an agreement between India and Japan would strengthen each other's presence beyond their current maritime peripheries. An agreement with India would allow Japan to strengthen its humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and allow for increased general operational capacity in the IOR should Tokyo wish to deepen its engagements there. Similarly, Tokyo could provide for a more sustained Indian presence in the East and South China Sea. Moreover, a logistics agreement between Tokyo and Delhi could allow for Indian missions in the Taiwan strait through Okinawa—an opportunity to cause further maritime dilemmas for Beijing.

Similarly, a logistical agreement with Australia could prove beneficial for India, given their presence in the Southern Indian Ocean. Through its possession of the Cocos Keeling Islands, Australia can provide access to the Indonesian straits, overseeing the waterways linking the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. France and Australia also share a maritime boundary in the Southern Indian Ocean which could provide opportunities for strategic collaborations between Paris, Canberra, and Delhi in the Indian Ocean region.

While engaging with major powers to leverage their presence in the IOR, India must also place an emphasis on working with smaller island partners such as Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, and Comoros, and on maintaining ties with neighboring Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Despite being smaller, these islands nations sit critically across key SLOCs. Engagement and collaborations with island nations will be critical for the Indian Navy in shaping a favorable maritime environment in the Indian Ocean. Equally important would be engagements with strategic partners such as Indonesia, Singapore, and Myanmar in creating a friendly maritime environment in India’s neighborhood.

India’s Way Forward

Although initially slow to act, Delhi has been able to quickly revise its policies and renew its engagements and presence in the IOR. One of the critical changes in India’s maritime engagements has been realization of the importance of partnerships. As India picks up its pace, primarily in response to the rise of China in its neighborhood, it must leverage its partnerships to address new and emerging challenges to shape a maritime environment that is conducive to its strategic interests. MDA, intelligence sharing, the use of technology in the maritime domain, and proactively addressing nontraditional threats are the key areas that will shape India’s broader role in the Indo-Pacific and its ability to influence a changing security architecture.

1. Maritime Domain Awareness

MDA has become a critical element of India’s naval thinking on both deterrence and conflict strategies, and this section discusses how, looking forward, India’s naval advantages hinges on its ability to develop and leverage more robust MDA and intelligence sharing agreements. The Indian Navy defines MDA as a "need for situational awareness at sea, and is used in the modern sense as an all-encompassing concept. It involves being cognizant of the position and intentions of all actors, whether own, hostile or neutral, and in all dimensions—on, over, and under the seas."10 The ability to monitor the IOR’s entry and exit points would lend the Indian Navy and its partners the advantage of being aware of all movements, especially those of sub-surface vessels, and allow their respective navies to reposition, deploy, and respond to emerging threats or challenges.

But MDA requires a vast mandate that is difficult for a country to achieve alone. Even the U.S. Navy relies on its partners and allies for effective MDA. Alone, it is impossible to monitor all aspects of vast spaces. However, through engagements with partners and strategic collaborations, MDA becomes a critical tool in conflict and deterrence strategies.11 India can significantly improve its MDA through three key mechanisms: strategic positioning, access to partners’ facilities, and more robust intelligence sharing agreements.

First, an Indian presence at key locations such as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, La Reunion, and Cocos Keeling would allow for effective monitoring and surveillance of key choke-points. This presence is crucial in India’s quest to remain a leading power in the IOR. Although India does carry out patrolling and monitoring missions, it is fairly limited overall and strongest in the northern and eastern Indian Ocean and along the Straits of Malacca. To extend and strengthen its maritime influence, Delhi must be able to operate in a similar manner across all the key choke-points it considers crucial.

Second, India must also be able to leverage its partners’ facilities to strengthen its MDA. For instance, through its strategic partnerships, India could one day deploy its P-8Is—the navy’s formidable platform for anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)—between La-Reunion (France), Diego Garcia (U.S./UK), Andaman and Nicobar (India), Cocos Keeling (Australia), and Okinawa (Japan). Maritime patrols could be conducted from Djibouti to Duqum (Oman) and Abu Dhabi (UAE), provided India has access to partner facilities. Such engagements would allow Delhi to signal intent, show force and presence, and generate MDA over a large area covering key sub-regions and critical chokepoints.

Third, while India has signed several white shipping agreements—or information network protocol that allows two countries’ navies to share information and monitor movements at sea of commercial maritime traffic—there is a need to strengthen intelligence sharing with key Indian partners. Such intelligence sharing will allow India to respond appropriately to PLA incursions in its neighborhood and develop policies to address emerging threats and challenges in the maritime domain.

Intelligence sharing through MDA partnerships based on a burden sharing model between India and its partners is India’s best bet to maximize its strategic partnerships in the IOR. Currently, Delhi has limited agreements allowing for the sharing of sensitive and classified information. Although India might exchange such information on an ad hoc basis, the need for formal arrangements will emerge rather quickly. India must work to finding ways to exchange such information with the Five Eyes intelligence sharing pact, France, and Japan. India should also work with the United States to place a liaison officer at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) in Hawaii; such an arrangement could support better understanding of opportunities for deeper strategic collaboration. Australia, France, and Japan already have military representatives at various levels throughout INDOPACOM. An Indian Naval officer would allow for closer interactions and understanding of missions and operations of its partners in the IOR and the wider Indo-Pacific. The liaison position would also facilitate a better understanding and more efficient implementation of necessary platforms and mechanisms to strengthen maritime partnerships.

Finally, India could also couple maritime MDA with space-based MDA partnerships in which countries like Japan and France can play leading roles. The importance of satellites as an additional source of MDA has increased in the recent past. Given the vast areas that need to be covered by MDA, satellites can play a critical role in addressing information gaps. India continues to discuss such collaborations with its partners that have expertise in this domain. In 2018, India and France signed an agreement to jointly launch satellites for MDA in the IOR.

2. Information Fusion

In addition to more comprehensive intelligence sharing partnerships, effective MDA requires collating the data collected to present a reliable, real-time picture, otherwise known as information fusion. This requires information fusion centers—multilateral or interagency maritime data information sharing hubs—to extract relevant data from thousands of sources into one coherent picture based on real-time movements and developments across the area. As India continues to build out the Information Fusion Center-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR)12 it launched in 2018, it must work out the modalities of sharing information with partner countries and using the available data. Many of India’s partners are also part of groupings such as the Five Eyes and can share critical lessons on operations, data dissemination, and technical know-how with the Indian Navy. Additionally, Delhi must work with the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) hosted in Madagascar and the Information Fusion Centre (IFC) in Singapore. Together with the IFC-IOR, these three centers can effectively cover the IOR. Information sharing through fusion centers and white shipping agreements would also allow for experiences and build trust on intelligence sharing.

3. Technological Innovation

While presence, training, exercises, and MDA are the more pressing and visible areas for growth in India’s maritime partnerships, there is a need for collaboration and investments in research and innovation. Technology in the maritime domain—whether artificial intelligence, robotics, unmanned underwater vehicles, big data analytics, or surveillance capabilities, investment and collaborations on defense technology, research, and innovation—will be a critical component for maritime defense. For instance, MDA requires fusing several large data sets to create one operating picture. Experience and practices developed in other fields of big data analytics, from businesses to local governments, can be applied to the maritime domain as well.13 Similarly, the use of technology in surveillance and monitoring will boost MDA efforts.

The United States, Japan, France, Canada, and Singapore, as leaders in research and innovation in emerging technologies, could partner with India in applying these technologies to the maritime domain. India already collaborates with most of these countries on science and technology, and it must now explores the application and viability of some of this work to the maritime domain. Engaging with nations beyond the traditional IOR actors could be useful. Canada has made significant efforts in using new technology to address security concerns in the maritime domain to research and conduct surveillance missions in the difficult terrains of the Arctic and Antarctic. It might be worth exploring and borrowing from Canada’s experience using technology to access and conduct missions in complex situations.

4. Non-traditional Threats

India can also apply its technological collaboration in the maritime domain to non-traditional security challenges. Most littoral and small states near critical choke-points and strategic access ways in the IOR are primarily concerned about non-traditional threats.14 Countries from Mauritius to Madagascar grapple with the inability to protect and monitor their coastal waters, which leads to illegal fishing and negatively affects their economies. Additional challenges include drug smuggling, human trafficking, and natural disasters. Innovation and technological developments for effective monitoring of fish stocks, combating illegal fishing, advancing the blue economy, and fielding disaster warning systems are top priorities for many IOR states.

India should place equal importance on non-traditional security challenges and become a leader in providing solutions to the region. For example, it can partner with Japan to build infrastructure and provide training for effective response to natural disasters. Similarly, Delhi’s global initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure provide excellent opportunities and frameworks for substantial collaborations with islands states addressing their security concerns. In its effort to address non-traditional threats, Delhi must also leverage its partnership with the European Union, which is already engaged with a number of capacity building initiatives in the region—including blue economy development—and looking to collaborate with Delhi in the Indian Ocean.15

For India, it is not enough to engage islands with strategic potential only for access and traditional security collaborations. To keep these critical choke-points and waterways stable, open, and free, Delhi must understand and acknowledge the security threats these nations face. Indeed, island nations in the IOR are more likely to cooperate with India strategically if New Delhi also addresses their security needs, which are distinct from great-power competition.

Conclusion

As Beijing continues to pursue its great power ambitions, India-China competition will increase across the IOR. To secure its own strategic interests and sustain a key role in the IOR, India will have to maintain its geographic advantages in the maritime domain. An increased and sustained presence in the IOR accompanied by effective MDA will boost Delhi's ability to address new security challenges in the region and provide a security framework for the IOR. Given Beijing’s rapid progress in its maritime capacity and capability, India should leverage its partnerships while developing its own capabilities to maintain a favorable maritime environment as well as its advantages in the IOR.

Strengthening Delhi’s Strategic Partnerships in the Indian Ocean