The dispatch of a task force of four warships and the first sea voyage of a domestic aircraft carrier shows that India wants to send a warning signal to China.
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The Indian Navy is deploying a task force of four warships to the South China Sea and Western Pacific on a two-month mission. According to analysts, India’s move is aimed at increasing its presence in the region, as the US and China conduct many large-scale exercises.
India’s fleet of warships, in addition to patrolling in the South China Sea, will also conduct many military exercises with navies of countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines, as well as participate in the annual Malabar exercise with the Philippines. member countries of the Diamond Quartet off the coast of Guam in the Western Pacific Ocean.
The Indian task force consists of the guided missile destroyer INS Ranvijay, the guided missile frigate INS Shivalik, the anti-submarine corvette INS Kadmatt and the guided missile corvette INS Kora. Of these, three are designed and manufactured by India, with the exception of the INS Ranvijay.
In an official statement, the Indian navy emphasized the deployment of four warships to strengthen the relationship of international cooperation and solidarity with “friend countries towards ensuring maritime order”.
According to analysts, India’s goal is to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian countries, while increasing its presence in the region. Last year’s tense border conflict with China is also the reason why India has stepped up to join the US in efforts to contain Beijing from expanding its influence.
In addition, in recent months, India has shown a more proactive role in the Diamond Quartet consisting of 4 member countries Japan, Australia, India and the US. The Diamond Quartet is seen as an informal security alliance led by the United States.
Rajiv Bhatia, a former Indian ambassador to Myanmar, said the upcoming exercises by the Indian warship group are “evidence of enhanced cooperation” in the region with the Diamond Quartet.
“The exercises and the deployment of the Indian task force to the region are key pillars of the Diamond Quad strategy. The Diamond Four Foreign Ministers are discussing the diplomatic aspect related to maritime security, but the group’s strategy is being realized through naval channels,” the South China Morning Post said. SCMP) quoted Mr. Bhatia.
As can be seen, New Delhi is increasingly using its maritime presence to convey its strategy. As last year, right after the clash between Chinese and Indian troops in the Galwan Plateau in June, the Indian government quietly deployed a warship to the South China Sea. India’s move has been strongly criticized by China, which unilaterally claims most of the South China Sea.
This year, India sent its first domestic aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, on its maiden sea voyage. The voyage of the INS Vikrant ship was conducted on August 4 from the state of Kerala. The INS Vikrant will be the second aircraft carrier in the Indian Navy.
In addition, worried about China’s military facilities in the Horn of Africa country Djibouti, India is said to be secretly building a base on Agalega island in the Republic of Mauritius, a country in East Africa.
However, on August 4, the Mauritius government announced that although on Agalega island is building a jetty and airstrip, these two structures do not serve military purposes. India’s foreign ministry also declined to comment on infrastructure construction on Agalega Island.
India changes strategy
According to Premesha Saha, a researcher at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, India is changing its stance when it is gradually turning to openly criticizing China’s unreasonable actions in the South China Sea.
Also according to Ms. Saha, one of the reasons for this change was the bloody border clash between China and India soldiers in June 2020 along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the area between the two countries. Ladakh state is administered by India and Aksai Chin is controlled by China. The LAC has a length of 4,057 km and is an area of dispute between China and India for decades.
The collision on June 15, 2020 killed at least 20 Indian soldiers and 5 Chinese soldiers. This is considered the most serious border conflict since the 70-day dispute in the Doklam plateau in 2017.
“Another reason for India to change its strategy is China’s increased presence in the Indian Ocean. This causes India to do the same thing in China’s backyard,” Saha said.
Meanwhile, retired Indian Navy General K. Mohanan said that it is normal for a task force like four warships that the Indian navy is dispatching to the South China Sea. Because usually, “1 or 2” Indian warships have also been sent to carry out such missions.
“The message these four warships want to send is to show countries in the region that India is coming here and the South China Sea belongs to all nations,” Mohanan said.