India has deployed warships to the South China Sea in what New Delhi proclaims to be a bid to expand security ties with “friendly countries” and in an apparent move to join and play a bigger role in a US-led scheme to counter China near Chinese territorial waters.
Four Indian warships, including a guided-missile destroyer and a missile frigate, are to be deployed for a two-month period to Southeast Asia, the South China Sea, and the western Pacific, the Indian navy declared in a Wednesday statement.
“The deployment of the Indian Navy ships seeks to underscore the operational reach, peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly countries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain,” the statement added.
According to India’s navy, as part of their deployment, the Indian warships will also participate in annual joint war games with naval forces of the US, Japan, and Australia off the coast of Guam.
The four countries joined forces to establish an informal group, known as the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialog), which US President Joe Biden’s administration has promoted in recent months as a way to counter an increasingly assertive China.
“These maritime initiatives enhance synergy and coordination between the Indian Navy and friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and commitment towards Freedom of Navigation at sea,” the Indian navy further said, echoing similar claims often made by the US military.
The development comes as the Indian military has traditionally remained wary of antagonizing China, but the temperament has grown harsher following clashes between troops on the disputed border between the two countries last year. New Delhi has since drawn closer to Washington in an attempt to push back against China.
The South China Sea has emerged as one of many flashpoints in the tense relationship between China and the United States, with Washington persistently rejecting what it alleges as unlawful territorial claims by Beijing in the resource-rich waters.
In its latest provocation, a US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Ronald Reagan entered the South China Sea in June as part of what it described as “a routine mission.”
A British carrier group is also due to engage in war games in the Philippine Sea this month.
China, however, regards multilateral military maneuvers as destabilizing to the region and has harshly criticized them.
Secret Indian navy base exposed on Mauritian island
Meanwhile, Satellite imagery, financial data, and on-the-ground evidence obtained by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network, have revealed India’s construction of a naval facility on the remote Mauritian island of Agaléga.
Citing military experts that have analyzed its evidence, the news network emphasized that an airstrip under construction will almost certainly be used for naval patrol missions by the Indian military.
According to Al Jazeera, rumors and media reports about the military base first surfaced in 2018, though both Mauritius and India have denied that the construction project is for military objectives and insist that the infrastructure is only to benefit the islanders.
Satellite pictures reveal how Agaléga — located nearly 1,100 kilometers from Mauritius’ main island and home to about 300 people — “is seeing the construction of two large jetties and a runway” that is more than three kilometers long, according to the report.
The new airstrip, still under construction, will be as long as runways used by the largest planes in the world at major international airports.
The pictures and data further show how, over the last two years, the island has become home to hundreds of construction workers living in a semi-permanent camp on the northern tip of the 12-kilometers-long island, Al Jazeera added.