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‘India and the U.S. continue to explore ways to deepen their bilateral defence cooperation”.
In a first indicator that India is reconsidering its reluctance to Joint military policing with other countries, a senior U.S. naval officer says Indian and U.S. officials have discussed Joint Naval Patrols, though concrete steps are yet to be finalised.
Speaking to The Hindu, he refused to elaborate if the discussions covered joint patrol of the South China Sea.
The disclosure comes a year after the two countries signed a joint vision statement which called for “safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over-flight” throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. officer’s statement comes in the light of a Reuters report two days ago claiming that the two sides have held talks on conducting Joint Naval patrols, including in the disputed South China Sea. The report was denied by the U.S. State Department later.
India and the U.S. continue to explore ways to deepen their bilateral defence cooperation, the officer said, including in the area of maritime security within the “Framework for the U.S.-India Defence Relationship”, signed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter during the former’s visit to the U.S. last June.
“We continue to work with our Indian counterparts on how and where to expand engagement in this area. On the matter of joint patrols, I can confirm that some informal discussions have occurred, but no decisions have been made,” the officer told The Hindu in an e-mail response.
He refused to provide more specifics at this time due to the “sensitivities” involved with the subject.
Responding to questions on the Reuters report, the U.S. State Department said denied plans for joint patrols at present, but did not rule out holding discussions. “The U.S. and India do have a shared vision of peace and prosperity in Asia,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington on Thursday.
“At this time, there are no plans for any joint Naval Patrols,” he added.
Defence Ministry officials when contacted declined comment. Navy officials responded on similar lines saying it is not for their service to take a decision on the matter. An official from the Ministry of External Affairs said there was “no such proposal” without getting into details.
India has consistently maintained that it would not join any military coalitions except under the mandate of the United Nations, to which it is one of the largest troop contributing nations.
In fact since India began anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden in 2008 it has been coordinating with other countries operating there but shied away from entering into any formal arrangement.
India has also refused to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a global effort initiated by the US, which aims to stop trafficking of weapons of mass destruction on the high seas. This began in 2003 and so far 105 countries have endorsed it.
The silence of the government in officially clarifying on having had these discussions leaves enough room for speculation.
There have been several attempts in the past for such multilateral groupings in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). In the aftermath of the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2003 India along with US, Japan and Australia formed a “core group” to coordinate disaster relief in the region.
The same group began a Quadrilateral Initiative to focus on the security dangers in the Asia-Pacific on the side-lines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) gathering in Manila in 2007.
From: The Hindu
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