Amid political uncertainty in the Gulf region, India has joined hands with Saudi Arabia and France to secure shipping routes in the Western and Southern Indian Ocean. The Indian Navy had to rush warships and aircraft to the Persian Gulf in August to undertake maritime security operations amid tensions between the US and Iran.
India has announced it is to conduct a first-ever naval exercise with Saudi Arabia next March, as part of deepening maritime strength in the western Indian Ocean. The Western Indian Ocean constitutes highly sensitive shipping routes such as the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf. The two countries will hold their first-ever joint naval exercises in the first week of March 2020.
The two countries have also decided to work together with other Indian Ocean Rim Countries to enhance maritime security. India and Saudi Arabia have signed a pact for the establishment of a Strategic Partnership Council (SPC). India is the fourth country with which Saudi Arabia has formed such a strategic partnership, after the UK, France and China.
Earlier this month, India signed a defence co-operation agreement with Comoros – located at the mouth of the Mozambique Channel- under which New Delhi gifted the country interceptor boats worth $2 million and extended a $20 million line of credit for the procurement of high-speed interceptor boats.
At the same time India is also focusing more on the East Indian Ocean where it aims to counter China’s growing political, financial, military, and strategic influence over several port countries. India claims that strategic partnership with countries like Myanmar and Srilanka is vital to China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy, which, according to New Delhi, requires clinching regional military and security alliances, backed by generous economic packages, with states located in the Indian Ocean Region in a bid to “encircle” India.