Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is in Maldives where handed over two military ships to the Maldives National Defence Forces
Amidst a “large presence of Chinese vessels in the Indian Ocean, the top brass of the Indian defence establishment has fanned out to India’s maritime neighbours to further boost New Delhi’s ties with these island nations that are strategically significant to India to keep an eye on the growing Chinese naval activities.
While Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is in Maldives where handed over two military ships to the Maldives National Defence Forces, Navy Chief Admiral R Harikumar is in Singapore to take part in the maiden ASEAN-India maritime exercise.
The Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari is touring Sri Lanka to enhance the “bonds of mutual cooperation” between the two nations, official sources said.
While handing over a fast patrol vessel and a landing craft assault ship to the Maldives, Singh said ‘neighbourhood first’ was India’s priority and among the neighbourhood, ‘Maldives was a priority’.
The defence minister is in Male for a three-day visit during which he had bilateral talks with his counterpart Mariya Ahmed Didi and called on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Singh also met Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.
Singh’s visit comes three months after Foreign Minister S Jaishankar travelled to Maldives where he handed over two sea ambulances (special boats to ferry patients) to the island nation.
India 2021 signed an agreement with the Maldives to “develop, support and maintain” a harbour at Uthuru Thila Falhu naval base. While the base is officially for Maldivian forces, it may turn into a strategic asset for New Delhi in future. Earlier India installed a coastal radar network in Maldives consisting of 10 radar stations to keep an eye on the Indian Ocean.
Addressing a conclave in New Delhi last week, Navy Chief Admiral Harikumar spoke about a “large presence of Chinese vessels in the Indian Ocean” and how the Indian Navy kept a close watch. He also said the navy was aware of the docking of various PLA Navy ships at Pakistan ports.
The issues of concerns that he flagged in Delhi are likely to be deliberated among the Navy chiefs of 10 ASEAN nations who have congregated at Singapore for the inaugural India-ASEAN maritime exercise in which Indian warships INS Delhi and INS Satpura will participate.
The harbour phase of the exercise is to be held at Changi Naval Base between May 2-4 while the sea phase will be conducted between May 7-8 in the South China Sea. “The sea phase in the South China Sea will provide an opportunity for the participating navies to develop closer links in the coordination and execution of operations in the maritime domain,” said a Navy official.
Meanwhile, the IAF chief is on a quiet four-day visit to Sri Lanka during which he will call on the President, Prime Minister and Defence Minister besides having discussions with the Chief of the Defence Staff, the Commanders of Sri Lanka Air Force, Army & Navy, and the Defence Secretary.
Source : Deccan Herald