Source : Times Now
|Indian Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar (File Photo)
New Delhi: In the wake of the QUAD countries (India, Australia, Japan and the United States of America) calling for closer ties with the ASEAN, the Navy chief, Admiral R. Hari Kumar, is likely to visit Indonesia and the Philippines later this year.
While the dates for the visit are being worked out, it is clear that this could be a significant trip and the elephant in the room during the discussions will be China. The Navy chief has just visited the Maldives and the Seychelles, two Indian Ocean Island states and here too, India has reached out for closer ties, particularly with the former, again keeping the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Navy) in mind.
Both countries are particularly important for India: The Philippines is particularly important as a market for Indian weaponry, having just bought 370 million US dollars’ worth of the Brahmos cruise missile, which is virtually unstoppable, being supersonic and with a range of about 300 km. Indian experts are already in The Philippines, working on setting up the systems and Antonio Morales, senior official in the Philippines foreign ministry told TIMES NOW that the purchase is only the beginning of the defence partnership between the two countries. The transfer of a second consignment of Brahmos missiles is also under discussion, now that the new government is in place.
The Philippines and China have serious disputes about boundaries with Beijing creating artificial islands in the South China Sea and extending its EEZ. The Philippines had sought international arbitration but has not got much justice despite a favourable verdict.
Indonesia is the biggest of the ten ASEAN countries and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was there not long ago. It is also strategically important as the southernmost tip of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are not too far away from Sumatra, the westernmost Indonesian island. The Malacca Straits are also an important “chokepoint” and has strategic significance. Closer naval cooperation is expected after the visit.