India held its first-ever trilateral naval exercise with two east African countries, Tanzania and Mozambique, earlier this week.
The exercise took place off the east coast of Africa, in the western Indian Ocean, just days after the India-Africa Defence Dialogue in Gujarat's Gandhinagar on the sidelines of Defexpo 2022.
India's maritime security strategy lists the southwest Indian Ocean, including the Mozambique Channel (used by shipping transiting the Cape of Good Hope) and the east coast of Africa, where China has been investing heavily, as one of the primary areas of interest.
The exercise is part of a wider effort to strengthen defence ties with east African countries part of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Over the last few years, China has invested in at least 17 ports in east Africa, giving it a robust presence in the western Indian Ocean. In 2017, it also launched its first foreign military base, located on Africa's east coast in Djibouti.
Experts believe that some of these facilities could be used by China for military purposes in the future, allowing the People's Liberation Army Navy to sustain naval deployments in the region.
China first started sending anti-piracy missions to the Indian Ocean in 2008. Since 2013, its presence has grown to include the deployment of submarines, including nuclear-powered ones. Moreover, recent developments at China's base in Djibouti suggest that the facility is being prepared to dock submarines and aircraft carriers.
India has positioned itself as a net security provider and first responder in the region. It has played a crucial humanitarian assistance/disaster relief role in the IOR, most recently during Cyclone Idai in Mozambique in March 2019 to Cyclone Diane in Madagascar in June 2020.
New Delhi also maintains close defence ties with all the island states in the region. It is currently building military infrastructure on Mauritius' Agalega Island in the western Indian Ocean. The infrastructure, which includes a 3,000 metre-long runway and two new jetties, would allow India to maintain a greater military presence in the region to counter China.
India has access to military facilities of Japan, France and the United States — all three have bases in the western Indian Ocean — under the logistics exchange agreements it has signed with these countries.
New Delhi is working with France, which has overseas territories in the region, on security-related issues in the region. P-8I submarine hunting aircraft of the Indian Navy were deployed to La Réunion Island, an overseas department of France, in 2020 and 2022.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.