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OpinionsIndia’s Maritime manoeuvres indicate a departure from Non-Alignment

India’s Maritime manoeuvres indicate a departure from Non-Alignment


Dispatching INS ‘Talwar' to assist U.S. coalition is a sign of definite tilt

By Girish Linganna

, a rising military power that proudly avoids alliances, recently showcased a shift in its global perspective. In a low-key manner, despite emphasizing its “strategic autonomy” for years, New Delhi dispatched the INS Talwar, a frigate, to assist a maritime coalition led by the United States.

The primary objective of the frigate was to support the interception of a drug-carrying dhow in the Arabian Sea, which was transporting 940kg of methamphetamines, hashish, and heroin. The operation took place as part of a task force operating under the Combined Maritime Forces, headquartered in Bahrain.

A dhow is a traditional wooden sailing vessel from the Arabian region, often used for trade and fishing, featuring one or more masts with lateen sails. India, a country that has traditionally refrained from participating in military missions except under the UN flag, has undergone a notable strategic shift. Recently, without much fanfare, India officially joined a coalition, signifying a significant moment in its foreign policy.

While the details were not widely publicized to avoid causing alarm, the move demonstrates India's increased alignment with the United States on military and economic issues. This closer partnership is largely driven by shared concerns about China.

India chose not to participate in Operation Prosperity Guardian, a coalition led by the United States that was established recently to counter the Red Sea attacks by the Yemen-based Houthis.

However, starting from November, India has been collaborating with the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a multinational organization consisting of 43 nations. The CMF is responsible for patrolling the high seas in the western Indian Ocean, safeguarding crucial shipping routes, and operates under the command of the US Fifth Fleet.

India's navy has been conducting more frequent patrols in the high seas near the Red Sea, operating autonomously. They have been providing escort services to ships during times of conflict and have even rescued crews from pirate attacks on several occasions. India has a vested interest in this matter as it supplies a significant number of sailors for global merchant vessels. In a recent incident, 17 Indian sailors were briefly detained by Iranian troops near the Strait of Hormuz.

A leading diplomatic analyst highlighted that India's role in the CMF reflects its close relationship with the U.S. as well as its strategic interests in the region. India's involvement goes beyond mere representation; it seeks to affirm its position as a principal security provider in the area.

India's foreign policy has always valued diplomatic and military autonomy, yet its gradual shift towards Western alignment has been underway for some time. Jawaharlal Nehru helped establish the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961. India's wary stance towards the West stems from the Cold War era when it was troubled by the U.S. providing arms to Pakistan—a persistent issue—and saw the Soviet Union, now Russia, as a more dependable ally.

Indian officials and experts now view China as India's primary strategic concern, surpassing Pakistan. Although the Modi administration avoids using the term “alliance,” New Delhi is actively expanding its defense and technology partnerships with nations like the U.S., France, and Israel, as reported by the Financial Times.

Following deadly clashes in 2020, India has restructured its military and moved some of its forces from the Pakistan border to its extensive, contested border with China. Analysts believe that India's military should primarily concentrate on its northern border, but India is also enhancing its naval capabilities to strengthen its maritime presence.

India's most notable initiative in this regard is its participation in the Quad, an alliance where it collaborates on security matters with the US, Australia, and Japan. India has conducted joint naval patrols with France from Réunion, a French overseas territory. Additionally, India and the Seychelles participated in joint military exercises in March.

Sujan Chinoy from the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Studies and Analyses told the Financial Times that the increasing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean is troubling for the US, other nations, and India due to the opacity surrounding China's motives and intentions.

According to the Financial Times, India is boosting its soft power throughout the Indian Ocean area, leveraging the presence of its diaspora. Notably, IIT Madras, a premier Indian technology university, has chosen Zanzibar as the location for its first campus abroad.

Zanzibar is an archipelago located in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of East Africa. It is part of Tanzania and is renowned for its beautiful beaches and historical Stone Town, a UNESCO Heritage site.

India's attempts to strengthen ties with its island neighbours have not always been well received. In the Maldives, where leadership often swings between pro-India and pro-China stances, the new president Mohamed Muizzu, who campaigned on an “India Out” agenda, is replacing a small group of Indian soldiers with civilian officials. For India, this situation may be part of a prolonged strategy.



The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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