As the Indian Ocean theatre becomes an increasing site of global contestation, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to three small neighboring Indian Ocean nations Tuesday to deepen India’s maritime security. Modi is to visit Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.
Voice of America says that Modi seeks to ramp up New Delhi’s influence along a strategic maritime route where China’s presence has been growing. Japan Times reports that he wants to prevent China from establishing a military foothold in a region his nation has dominated for decades.
Indian foreign secretary, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said New Delhi wants to tap the “substantive goodwill” for India in these countries. “We are looking at our visit, our interest, the possibility of our cooperation with these countries, and we are very bullish about where we see these relationships going,” said Jaishankar.
Asked why India was focusing on Indian Ocean region, a source said "if you don't do it, someone would be there to do it. We are just making up for the lost time".
The official version: The Indian efforts will be a mix of humanitarian causes, expanding military ties and largely “holding hands” of partners in the vital region.
In the “friendship” will be a small sub-text. Modi will be commissioning India’s new “eyes in the Indian Ocean” — a string of specialized coastal surveillance radar stations set up in these nations while an agreement for having 10 such radars in another Indian Ocean island nation — the Maldives — is pending.
India is aiming to pitch in with all help to island nations like Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka to "make up for the time lost". While defence component will not be a major part of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the three countries, starting tomorrow, he will seek to deepen the security ties.
Announcing a slew of projects to be inaugurated by Modi in Sri Lanka, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said India is “intent on strengthening ties” with Sri Lanka.
China’s growing military influence in Seychelles, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Maldives is a cause of concern for India. China sees Seychelles
as a potential resupply port for its navy ships and one of its submarines.
“Modi’s visit to the Indian Ocean reflects
the heightened strategic significance of these island states in Indian thinking,” said David Brewster, a specialist in Indo-Pacific security at the Australian National University in Canberra.