India deploys warships to South China Sea for Malabar exercise
The Indian Navy is scheduled to deploy a naval task group to the South China Sea in a move that could possibly affront China. The ships are set to participate in the next edition of the Malabar exercise of the Quad (India, Japan, Australia, and the United States) and will also be included in bilateral exercises with Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia.
The deployment is aimed at enhancing India's profile in the sea lanes. It will also highlight India's peaceful presence and solidarity with allies in terms of maritime order. The Indian Navy said that the ships will participate in the SIMBEX exercise with the Singaporean Navy, the 'Samudra Shakti' exercise with the Indonesian Navy, and AUS-INDEX exercise with the Australian Navy.
Further, the ships will also participate in the Malabar exercise along with the Quad or the Quadrilateral coalition. China has notably been suspicious of the Malabar exercise, viewing it as an attempt to limit its geographical influence. The Malabar exercise had started as a bilateral India-US drill in 1992. Japan became a permanent member in 2015 and Australia joined last year.
The Navy said, "In pursuit of India's 'Act East' policy and to enhance military cooperation with friendly countries, a task force of Indian Navy's Eastern Fleet is scheduled to proceed on an overseas deployment to South East Asia, the South China Sea, and Western Pacific from early August for over two months." Such engagements forge "bridges of friendship" and boost international cooperation, it said.
The Navy said it "undertakes regular deployments to friendly foreign countries and Indian and the Pacific Ocean regions in furtherance of the Prime Minister's initiative of 'Security and Growth for All in the Region' (SAGAR)." "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 development comes amid rising global concerns about China's influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The Quad remains committed to ensuring a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific amid the growing assertiveness of China's military.