Eye on China, India deploys three warships to South China Sea | India News

NEW DELHI: With three of its warships now reaching Singapore, India is all set to conduct naval exercises with `friendly’ countries in the contentious South China Sea, where a belligerent Beijing is locked in territorial disputes with its neighbours.
The long-range operational deployment of guided-missile destroyer INS Delhi, fleet tanker INS Shakti and anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kiltan to the South China Sea, under Eastern Fleet commander Rear Admiral Rajesh Dhankhar, comes at a time when the Indian Navy is also closely monitoring Chinese satellite and missile tracking ships in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
TOI in end-March had reported that four Chinese “research” or spy vessels were present in the IOR. Apart from tracking ballistic missile tests by India, such dual-use ships map oceanographic and other data useful for navigation and submarine operations of the Chinese Navy.
The three Indian warships reached Singapore on Monday to “further strengthen the longstanding friendship and cooperation between the two maritime nations through a series of engagements and activities”, Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said.
“The Indian Navy and Republic of Singapore Navy have had robust relations spanning three decades of cooperation, coordination and collaboration with regular visits, exchange of best practices, and reciprocal training arrangements. The current deployment underscores the strong linkages between them,” he added.
With an aggressive China figuring high on their radar screens, India has been steadily upgrading defence ties with Asean countries like Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines through regular joint exercises, military exchanges and training programmes.
Towards this end, the first-ever Asean-India maritime exercise (AIME) was also conducted in May last year. Warships from India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam had then conducted joint drills in the South China Sea.
India also wants to crank up arms supplies to Asean countries after beginning deliveries of the 290-km BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to the Philippines last month under the $375 million deal inked in January 2022.
China has for long been pursuing “grey zone” tactics, utilising the operational space between peace and war to coerce neighbours and push its expansionist territorial claims in the Indo-Pacific, stretching from the South China and East China Seas to the land frontier with India.
India is concerned about China’s expanding naval presence and logistical bases in the IOR as well as its growing collusion with Pakistan in the maritime domain. With already the world’s largest Navy with 355 warships and submarines, China is also helping Pakistan build a strong maritime force. Beijing, for instance, has already delivered four Type 054A/P multi-role frigates to Islamabad, while deliveries of eight Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines are also slated to begin soon.


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