Last month, India formally commenced cooperation with the Bahrain-based multilateral partnership, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). However, the modalities of the exact nature of cooperation are being worked out, according to official sources.
At the India-US 2+2 in April this year, India had announced that it would join the CMF as an Associate Partner, which Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had then said will strengthen cooperation in regional security in the Western Indian Ocean. Joining the CMF is the latest in a series of multilateral engagements by the Indian Navy as part of India’s widening military diplomacy.
End of July, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (DCNS) Vice Adm. Sanjay Mahindru visited the headquarters of CMF, which the Navy said marks “the initiation of the Indian Navy’s ‘Associate Support’ to CMF in keeping with India’s commitment to the collective responsibility of maritime security in the Indian Ocean.”
“Commitments to resources and personnel are limited for Associate membership and it will be cooperative engagement based on the needs and requirements. The modalities for this are being worked out,” an official source said.
Indian Navy could be contributing a warship when required, however, there is no deployment as of now, the source added.
Indian Navy has a Liaison Officer posted at the US Central Command (CENTCOM) in Bahrain who will also function as the point person for cooperation with the CMF, officials stated.
34 member grouping
CMF is a multi-national naval partnership to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 3.2 million square miles of international waters, which encompass some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
The 34 nation grouping is commanded by a U.S. Navy Vice Admiral, who also serves as Commander U.S. Naval Forces CENTCOM and U.S. Fifth Fleet. All three commands are co-located at U.S. Naval Support Activity Bahrain. In the immediate neighbourhood, Pakistan is a full member of CMF.
It is comprised of three task forces: CTF 150 (maritime security and counter-terrorism), CTF 151 (counter piracy) and CTF 152 (Arabian Gulf security and cooperation).
As per CMF’s website, it is a flexible organisation and members are not bound by either a political or military mandate. “Contributions can vary from the provision of a liaison officer at CMF HQ in Bahrain to the supply of warships or support vessels in task forces, and maritime reconnaissance aircraft based on land,” it stated.
We can also call on warships not explicitly assigned to CMF to give associated support, which is assistance they can offer if they have the time and capacity to do so whilst undertaking national tasking, the description on the website stated.
Under this framework, India has in the past cooperated with CMF on various occasions. For instance, the CMF’s CTF 151 has coordinated with Indian and Chinese warships deployed on anti-piracy duties to patrol the Maritime Security Transit Corridor.