India to boost Philippines maritime security

India has vowed to help the Philippines beef up its maritime defense capability to better fight terrorism.

In an exclusive online interview with The Manila Times, India’s Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran reiterated his country’s commitment to eliminate terrorism.

Kumaran said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged during the recent Joint Consultative Commission meeting to widen cooperation on maritime security to effectively deal with terrorism.

“It’s a great honor to be in the Philippines. We have a big relationship with a potential growth much, much bigger. And we do also have a lot of interest in maritime security,” he said.

Modi offered to help the Philippines set up a coastal surveillance system, he added.

India has had to deal with terror attacks in the recent past, including the raid in Mumbai in November 2008 carried out by Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

A total of 166 people, including 18 security personnel, were killed when 10 terrorists arrived in Mumbai by sea, setting off bombs and randomly firing at civilians in several hotels.

The attack raged for 60 hours before the terrorists were subdued.

“You know, just yesterday, we were [commemorating] the unfortunate anniversary of the terrorist attack in Mumbai,” Kumaran said.

“So, what we did in India regarding terrorist attacks is we made a mega international effort to create a coastal surveillance system that can allow us to look into the sea and search, you know, travel before they reach us. And so, what we do is to identify all the shipping that is happening,” he said.

The envoy said an agreement to cooperate in enhancing maritime security was signed by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Indian Navy during the state visit of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to the Philippines in October.

“We also worked on setting up necessary infrastructure because you are an archipelagic country, with a coastline of 36,000 kilometers,” he said.

The agreement, signed by Coast Guard chief Admiral Elson Hermogino and Vijay Thakur Singh, secretary [East] of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, aims to strengthen maritime security “through the sharing of information on nonmilitary and non-government shipping vessels between the Philippines and India.”

“I welcomed India’s role in the defense capability upgrade program against the backdrop of our growing security cooperation,” President Duterte said after meeting with Kovind.

“We agreed also to continue working together to fight terrorism and violent extremism and other transboundary threats,” he added.

Kovind said the Philippines and India were natural partners in the pursuit of the national development and security objectives.

“Both our countries have been victims of terrorism. As you know, India has been the target of cross-border terrorism for decades. We committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” the Indian leader said.

The Philippines continues to be a target for terrorist attacks, the most recent being the bombing in Jolo, Sulu in August that killed several soldiers and civilians and injured 40 others.

Aside from the siege of Marawi City in 2017, there was also the Jolo Cathedral attack in 2019, and the Davao City night market bombing in September 2016.

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