India, New Zealand to keen on stepping up naval ties

‘Forces will formalise a planned structure of engagement’

Updated - June 21, 2015 05:46 am IST

Published - June 21, 2015 12:00 am IST - KOCHI:

Rear Admiral Jack Steer, Chief of the Royal New Zealand Navy.— Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Rear Admiral Jack Steer, Chief of the Royal New Zealand Navy.— Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Indian and New Zealand navies will soon formalise a planned structure of engagement, which will include training exchanges.

“I see the relationship between both navies growing and expanding in a more structured way,” Rear Admiral Jack Steer, Chief of the Royal New Zealand Navy told The Hindu in an interview on board the frigate ‘Te Kaha’ on Friday.

Rear Admiral Steer said his Indian counterpart Admiral Robin Dhowan, who he met in New Delhi in the initial part of his India visit, was equally keen to formalise the relationship.

“It has so far been ad hoc, happening on occasion,” he said, refusing to call the existing relation ‘limited’ in scope.

“There is a lot of similarity in the way we do our business. We use similar procedures, similar doctrines… We have sent observers to [India’s multilateral initiative] Milan and soon to [Exercise] Malabar and we would like to do more.”

The Royal New Zealand Navy, he said, was already an observer at the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).

Maintaining that there was a lot of room for mutual cooperation, he said the Indian Ocean was important to New Zealand and its Navy, as “98 to 99 per cent of our imports and exports happen by the sea – a lot of it through the Indian Ocean”. And the New Zealand Navy would be increasingly working together with the Indian Navy to keep the sea lines of communication free for trade and commerce.

Asked if New Zealand’s strong trade relation with China would be a factor in its ties with India, he said New Zealand had a growing trade partnership with India as well.

Rear Admiral Steer was loath to interpret the growing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean. “Most countries’ navies do things for their own reasons. I don’t know why China is doing what it’s doing. We cannot surmise. And, whatever our nations’ militaries do is interpreted by other nations in their own way as well. So, what the Indian Navy thinks of what the Chinese Navy is doing may be different because of different perceptions. I don’t really have a view on it,” he said.

Piracy patrols

Stating that though there was a let up in piracy off the eastern coast of Africa lately, Rear Admiral Steer said there was no room for complacency.

“They [pirates] are just waiting for us to give up. Once the ships go away, they may come back.

“The continued presence of a number of ships from several maritime forces is what’s suppressing piracy.”

Citing the massive haul of drugs by ‘Te Kaha’ while on the present deployment in the Persian Gulf, he said what ‘Te Kaha’ and other ships operating as part of a multinational task force had done, intercepting drugs that were bound for sale to support terrorism “is a threat that will continue”.

The action by ships operating under the task force was impacting on the funding of terrorist activities, he said.

From Kochi, the ‘Te Kaha’ would be bound for New Zealand. It would, however, take part in a trilateral exercise, Talisman Sabre, with the Australian and American Navies before arriving home on August 2.

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