Two developments on Friday, several hundred kilometres apart, emphatically captured India’s naval challenges and growing opportunities.
Around the time Navy Chief Admiral R.K Dhowan began his official tour of Australia on Friday, an Indian naval ship entered Vietnam waters on its way to Japan.
In the backdrop of both the developments, hangs the shadow of China’s growing naval assertiveness in the region, and India’s new-found aggression to build partnerships both as a response to China as well as part of its role as a major maritime force of the Indian Ocean.
Navy chief in Australia Admiral Dhowan will be part of a gathering of over 40 naval chiefs in Australia discussing ways to improve maritime security and ensure freedom of navigation, especially for global cargo.
His visit comes a few days after the navies of India and Australia wrapped up their first bilateral naval exercises focussed on anti-submarine warfare.
An official statement said Admiral Dhowan’s visit “aims to consolidate existing maritime cooperation initiatives as well as explore new avenues.” His visit will coincide with the annual ‘Sea Power Conference’ organised by the Australia Navy, and attended by over 40 chiefs of navies.
Warship’s visit underlines India’s ‘Act East’ policy
As Navy Chief Admiral R.K. Dhowan began his official tour of Australia on Friday, an official statement said India and Australia had several commonalities which served as a foundation for closer cooperation and multifaceted interactions.
The defence cooperation between the two sides has been growing steadily in recent years, with the signing of a Defence Cooperation Agreement in 2006 and a Framework for Defence Cooperation in November 2014. The 2014 agreement envisages regular ship visits and high-level exchanges.
The Royal Australian Navy is also part of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a maritime cooperation construct pioneered by the Indian Navy in 2008.
Both sides conducted their first bilateral maritime exercise ‘AusIndex-15,’ off India’s east coast a few days ago.
The focus on anti-submarine warfare was interpreted by many observers as a move in the face of growing submarine manoeuvres by China in the Indian Ocean.
On Friday, INS Sahyadri entered the Da Nang port in Vietnam as part of its operational deployment to the South China Sea and the north-west Pacific region.