Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Indian Navy to expand maritime interests in South and Southeast Asia, retired Indian military official says.

By Chanda Shahani

India can provide a balanced multipolarity to the increasing assertiveness of China in East and Southeast Asia, said Major General Vinod Saighal (Ret.), India's former Director General of Military Training and presently the Executive Director of Eco Monitors Society, an NGO involved in demography and ecology issues, at a forum today at the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines at Diliman.

Saigal said that India is now definitely committed to projecting further east into the South China Sea and beyond is no longer in doubt. Thus far, its maritime projection has been towards maritime activities related to trade and exploration for hydrocarbons, when it has been invited by a host country, such as Vietnam.

He said that much will depend on China's military assertion in the region  as well as the projection of the Chinese navy into the Indian Ocean to either balance or rival India's historic primacy in the Indian Ocean.

He said that if and when India does move in more meaningfully into the maritime speheres claimed exclusively by China as its core interests, the chances of tensions heightening between the two regional powers becomes a distinct possibility.

Saigal said that a greater presence by the Indian Navy beyond the Malacca Straits would be welcomed by practically all the nations of Southeast Asia as well as Japan and South Korea.

Referring to the Philippines in particular, Saigal said that the Philippines was Asia's first democracy, and that India was Asia's largest democracy. He said that both India and the Philippines, therefore were standard bearers for democracy in Asia.

In the same forum, Commodore Caesar Taccad, the Deputy Commander of the Philippine Fleet, Philippine Navy, said that countries such as China and India were already major regional maritime players, and that India's projection into the Indo-Pacific region "would heighten tensions" with China.

He said that India's roile would complement that of the United States, which has begun concentrating its military resources in the Pacific; but whose sustainability to continue operations would remain  in question.

He said that India has interests in the South China Sea, and that it was entirely possible that it would seek strategic partnerships with countries such as Australia and the Philippines.

Dr. Aileen S.P. Baviera, a professor of Chinese studies and international relations at the Asian Center, University of the Philippine and currently its officer-in-charge and former Dean whose research interests include regional security, territorial and maritime disputes, major power relations and China-Southeast Asia ties, said that there was now a trend towards "balanced multi-polarity in South East Asia."

"All countries operate under pressure from domestic considrations," she said, but said that norms such as the following of the rule of law" should prevail and that "the resort to arms buildup isndicative that diplomacy is failing."