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With The Ports, Ships, And Promises, India Asserts A Role In Southeast Asia

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With The Ports, Ships, And Promises, India Asserts A Role In Southeast Asia: Almost lost in the din of upcoming U.S-North Korea summit and fresh tension between Washington and Beijing last week.  India cemented its diplomatic and security ties across Southeast Asia in a clear challenge to China.

With The Ports, Ships, And Promises, India Asserts A Role In Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia

It is not clear just how it far New Delhi will take these relationships, giving years of promise, and a general election due on the 11 months that can be a distraction for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And if India is already rattling China, it won’t want to spark the open war.

But Modi took several sound foreign policy and security steps in Southeast Asia in the present days.

He is signing an agreement with Indonesia to develop a port in the city of Sabang that will overlook the western entrance to the Strait of Malacca which is one of the world’s busiest waterways and agrees to a pact with Singapore on logistical support for the naval ships, submarines and military aircraft during visits.

Modi also flew to Kuala Lumpur for a late-scheduled call on Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who won last month’s general election, effectively cementing ties with three of the most influential Southeast Asian nations.

On Friday, Modi told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Asia’s premier defense forum, which India will be working with the Association of South East Asian Nations to promote a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.

We will be working with them, individually or in the formats of three or more, for a stable and peaceful region. Modi said in the keynote speech at the forum.

Several delegates including the U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, voice to the supporting.

At the end of the forum on Sunday, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen says that I am sure many countries are delighting that India has indicated its firm commitment to the region.

CHINA COOL

The term Indo-Pacific has grown in usage across diplomatic and security circles in the United States, Australia, India, and Japan in the recent years. Shorthand for a broader and Democratic-led region in place of Asia-Pacific, in which some people have said the positions of China too sharply at a center.

In a glimpse to India’s growing regional stature, the U.S. military’s Pacific Command in Hawaii is formally changing its name to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in the function on Wednesday.

Despite an outward show of friendship between the China and India and Modi’s comments about the strong relations between them. Beijing gave a distinctly chilly response to his strategy.

The state-owned Global Times warned in an editorial last week. If India seeks military access to the strategic island of Sabang, it might wrongfully entrap itself into a strategic competition with China and eventually burn its fingers.

Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhou, the research fellow at the Institute of War Studies Academy of Military Sciences of the People’s Liberation Army, tells reporters on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue that Modi made some dedicating suggest on what he is thinking of the Indo-Pacific issue.

Modi did not elaborate but the Global Times quotes him as saying The Indo-Pacific strategy and the quasi-alliance between the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia that will not last long.

WIDER FOOTPRINT

Indian foreign ministry officials say there was an active element of self-interest in the New Delhi’s efforts to secure the open access to the Malacca Strait since it carries about 60 percent of its foreign trade.

But India’s intended footprint looks more extensive. Late last month, the three Indian warships staging exercises with Vietnamese navy for the first time in the South China Sea, which is claims almost wholly by China.

Vietnamese submariners are trained in India, while the two sides have significantly increasing intelligence sharing and are exploring the advanced weapons sales.

To the west, India signed an agreement for access to the port of Duqm on Oman’s southern coast, during a visit by Modi earlier this year.

Under the agreement, media reports said, the Indian Navy will be able to use the port for logistics and support, allowing it to sustain long-term operations in the western Indian Ocean

In January, India finalizes a logistics exchange arrangement with France under which it uses French military facilities in the Indian Ocean.

Analysts said a more assertive India would answer concerns in Southeast Asia on expanding Chinese influence in a region and fear that the United States was disengaged.

The United States’ trade relations with China and a perceive U-turn in its foreign policy as it pursues peace with North Korea had shaking many issues in the region, they say.

There is some pressure in the ASEAN for diversification of security relationships which is taking insurances, says C. Raja Mohan, the director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.

An active India then actually fits into this situation.

But although Modi has started strongly, it was not clear how well his strategy would sustain, he is adding.

Implementation always has a significant challenge for India. Narendra Modi is Struggling to improve the capacity of Delhi to do things outside the borders. There is some advance, but that is a structural challenge that will remain.

Additional reporting by Chyen Yee Lee, Fathin Ungku and Greg Torode in Singapore; Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi; Editing by Alex Richardson.

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