India offers maritime intelligence sharing to ten Asian countries


Press Information Bureau of India showing Nirmala Sitharaman (in yellow saree) at the inauguration of the Naval Conclave.

India has offered to share real-time intelligence of maritime movements in the Indian Ocean with 10 countries that participated in a Naval Conclave in the country's Goa state last week.

Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Maldives, Seychelles and Singapore sent their senior naval and maritime heads to the conference held at the Indian Naval War college at INS Mandovi in Goa between Oct 31 and Nov 2.

"We have got a good response for our proposal from the participating countries," said Indian Naval chief Admiral Sunil Lanba." We hope a concrete structure for ensuring crossflow of maritime movement data can be developed between all the ten countries and India, the sooner the better," Admiral Lanba said.

But it was not yet known how the participating countries including Myanmar look at this Indian proposal, which, analysts feel, is aimed at countering China's growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region.

"India finds it more viable to counter China's growing naval assertiveness not merely in South China Sea but in the entire Indian Ocean region through a collaborative naval alliance rather go it alone. The Goa Naval Conclave has done the spadework in this direction," said retired Vice Admiral Pradeep Chatterjee, who commanded India's only tri services command in Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

It comes at a time when China is becoming increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea region and has recently set-up its first off-shore base in the Horn of Africa country of Djibouti.

"To counter China, India is now looking at a cooperative approach instead of going alone," said Chatterjee.

The Conclave was addressed by Indian defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and at least one naval chief of each participating country said that all countries should equally contribute to the process and modalities for the exchange of information should be discussed.

China's naval base in the Horn of Africa is the country's first overseas military base. However, Beijing has officially described it as a logistics facility.  It will be used to resupply navy ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.

Djibouti's position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled worry in India that it would become another of China's "string of pearls" military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Admiral Lanba told India Today that they have identified common security threats across all countries. "We need greater degree of coordination and info sharing to take things forward to provide maritime security and safety of the global commons of the Indian Ocean."

It was not clear whether India ultimately seeks to integrate this 11-nation maritime alliance into its larger naval alliance with US, Japan and Australia.

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