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Indo Pacific Risk and Advisory 5/24

Maldives Atoll Representative View Wix AI Generated

India advanced interests in the Indo Pacific during the week with inking of a key pact with Iran on Chabahar port operations, balancing relations with Maldives and engagements ranging from Africa to the European Union


Diplomacy

 

India’s Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways and AYUSH, Shri Sarbananda Sonowal visited Chabahar, Iran on 13 May 2024 to witness the signing ceremony of Long-term Main Contract for the development of Shahid Beheshti Port Terminal, Chabahar. The contract was signed between India Port Global Limited (IPGL) and Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) of Iran. The contract which was under discussion for almost 10 years now underlines importance of Chabahar as a gateway for trade with Afghanistan and broader Central Asian countries and could be a precursor to activation of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).


A reset in relations between India and Maldives is evident with a high level meeting between Indian by EAM, Dr. S. Jaishankar and his Maldivian counter part Moosa Zameer on May 09 a day prior to the deadline of pullout of all Indian troops from the atoll nation. Showing a degree of maturity and despite recent strain in relations, in a goodwill gesture, India has decided to extend vital budgetary support to the Maldives government with the rollover of a USD 50 million Treasury Bill for another year on the Maldivian government's special request as per the Indian High Commission in Male.


UK Minister of State for the Indo-Pacific, Anne-Marie Trevelyan visited Maldives on 9 May for the first UK ministerial visit to the country in two years. 

 

Military

 

After India and the European Union (EU) reiterated their commitment to a free and rules-based maritime order in the Indo-Pacific at their second security and defence consultations with focus on the Indian Ocean Region expanding maritime security cooperation is likely.


Meanwhile Director General of the Indian Defence Intelligence Agency (DG DIA) Lieutenant General DS Rana proceeded on an official visit to the United Republic of Tanzania to interact with senior military leadership of Tanzania, including the Chief of Defence Staff of Tanzania Peoples’ Defence Force, General Jacob John Mkunda, and his counterpart Maj Gen MN Mkeremy, Chief of Defence Intelligence. Lt Gen DS Rana will also inaugurate the newly set up Defence Wing at the High Commission of India, Dar Es Salaam. 


US nominee as Ambassador to Sri Lanka Elizabeth K. Horst assured the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she if confirmed will work with Sri Lanka to ensure a moratorium on Chinese PLA survey vessels.  “We are working to make sure there is fair access to ports for all ships,” she said adding that “We have huge concerns and we have asked for that moratorium. We think it is Sri Lanka’s best interest.”

 

This comes as the Japanese government has finalized a plan to provide Sri Lanka with a vessel equipped with underwater sonar for detecting the location of other vessels to improve the country’s oceanographic survey capabilities.


Following a month-long tour across seven countries in the Indo-Pacific, the commander of Army Pacific Command highlighted the necessity for maintaining partnerships to overcome logistics challenges.


Technology


Meanwhile Huawei Technologies rolls out an operating system developed fully in-house, HarmonyOS Next, that does not rely on Google's Android system and further sidesteps U.S. export controls that have cramped the Chinese company's mobile business. Running on Huawei's flagship Mate 70 smartphone, due out later this year, the new OS will use memory three times more efficiently and support on-device artificial intelligence claimed a release from the company.


Risks, Impact & Checks


In some ways the competition in the Indian Ocean region is seen to be growing as India has adopted an autonomous course to protect national interests and expand engagement with diverse partners from Iran to Tanzania on the East coast of Africa. This is expected to increase the level of misunderstandings with the United States with reference to Iran which continues to be under US sanctions, even though both have a common objective of containing China’s expanding influence in the Indian Ocean Region.


India’s approach is to build viable partnerships for furthering national interests thus European Union comes in the picture even as the United States is focused on the Western Pacific regional complex per se.


India is also adopting a more accommodative approach vis a vis states as Maldives which have shown a distinct tilt towards China of late. This is seen a more viable policy in the long run, and what next steps China takes in this direction remains to be seen?


In the military domain, adopting multi modal transport from commercial to military aircraft to amphibious warships and inland transport will remain a key option from the strategic to the operational mobility domain.

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