Strengthening Bilateral Ties and Ensuring Maritime Security: India’s Strategic Response

- colombogazette.com

In a testament to the deepening strategic partnership between India and the United States, the recently concluded bilateral tri-service Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise on Kakinada Beach, known as ‘Tiger Triumph-24′, stands as a milestone in cooperative defence efforts.

This joint endeavour, witnessed by officials from both nations, underscores the shared commitment to enhancing readiness and cooperation in addressing humanitarian crises and natural disasters.

The exercise, which took place on Friday, showcased the combined capabilities of Indian and US forces in executing complex amphibious operations and establishing critical infrastructure such as field hospitals and displaced persons’ camps. Such initiatives not only demonstrate the synergy between the two militaries but also highlight their preparedness to collaborate seamlessly in times of need.

As emphasized by Rear Admiral Joaquin J Martinez de Pinillos, the evolving nature of the India-US defence relationship is reflected in the increasing complexity and scale of exercises like Tiger Triumph. This sentiment was echoed by Rear Admiral Rajesh Dhankar, who stressed the exercise’s role in enhancing interoperability and mutual understanding between the armed forces of both countries.

The significance of such joint exercises extends beyond mere military cooperation. It underscores the broader strategic alignment between India and the United States, as both nations seek to uphold maritime security, promote regional stability, and safeguard shared interests in the Indo-Pacific region.

While the India-US exercise symbolizes a positive trajectory in bilateral relations, recent developments in the Indian Ocean region have raised concerns about the growing presence of external actors, particularly China. The sighting of multiple Chinese research vessels in proximity to Indian waters has prompted questions about their intentions and activities in the region.

Amidst escalating tensions and increasing Chinese provocations in the high seas, India has emerged as the guardian of the entire Indian Ocean region, steadfastly safeguarding its maritime interests against external threats.

Since 2019, China has been dispatching spy ships disguised as ocean research vessels to countries near India, with the apparent aim of closely monitoring Indian assets and activities in the region. However, India has responded assertively to these incursions, demonstrating its commitment to protecting its sovereignty and ensuring regional stability.

In recent days, Beijing has displayed a heightened brazenness by deploying not one, not two, but four spy ships to the Indian Ocean, two of which have remained stationed in the Bay of Bengal for an extended period.

In response, India has deployed its own research vessel, the RV Samudra Ratnakar, strategically positioning it between the two Chinese survey ships, Xiangyang Hong 01 and Xiangyang Hong 03, off India’s eastern coast.

The RV Samudra Ratnakar, operated by the Geological Survey of India, boasts state-of-the-art capabilities and equipment for conducting oceanographic research missions, thus enhancing India’s maritime surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the region.

Constructed by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea, the RV Samudra Ratnakar is a 103-meter-long vessel designed for extended missions, capable of continuous sailing for up to 45 days.

Equipped with advanced scientific instruments such as positioning systems, sonar systems, seismic equipment, magnetometers, and gravimeters, as well as remotely operated vehicles and marine data management systems, it enables India to effectively monitor and gather crucial data on oceanic activities.

The deployment of Chinese Yuan Wang class ships, believed to be involved in tracking and supporting ballistic missiles, near India’s strategic locations has raised significant concerns for New Delhi. While China portrays these activities as research endeavours, their proximity to Indian assets and interests underscores the strategic implications and potential threats posed by Chinese expansionism in the Indian Ocean region.

Moreover, China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects in neighbouring countries, such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka, further highlight its broader geopolitical aspirations and quest for dominance in the region.

However, India remains vigilant and proactive in countering these efforts, leveraging its naval prowess and diplomatic engagements to preserve its strategic interests and deter any attempts to undermine regional security.

The recent visit of India’s Kalvari-class Scorpene submarine to the strategic naval air station in Campbell Bay, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, marks a significant milestone in India’s maritime capabilities. Situated near the Strait of Malacca, a crucial sea lane connecting the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea, Campbell Bay holds immense strategic importance, allowing India to monitor and control vital maritime chokepoints and shipping routes.

India’s ongoing efforts to enhance its naval infrastructure and operational capabilities, including the expansion of runways and the deployment of advanced surveillance aircraft, underscore its commitment to maintaining maritime superiority and deterring potential adversaries.

The Indian Navy’s successful conduct of exercises in the Arabian Sea, involving a powerful display of eight submarines operating together, demonstrates its operational readiness and ability to project power across vast maritime domains.

Furthermore, India’s proactive role in providing security to merchant vessels in the Red Sea and combating piracy attempts underscores its commitment to upholding maritime security and stability in critical sea lanes. The deployment of a dozen warships and a record number of operational submarines by the Indian Navy reflects its determination to counter emerging threats and assert India’s dominant position in the Indian Ocean region.

In conclusion, as China seeks to expand its influence and assert control over the Indian Ocean region, India remains steadfast in its resolve to safeguard its maritime interests and uphold regional stability.

Through strategic deployments, diplomatic engagements, and concerted efforts to bolster its naval capabilities, India is poised to counter any threats and emerge as a leading security provider in the Indo-Pacific. While challenges persist, India’s unwavering commitment to maritime security underscores its pivotal role in shaping the future of the Indian Ocean region.

 

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