February 2019 \ News \ DIPLOMACY

Keeping regional security in mind, India has scaled up its defence cooperation with its extended neighbourhood in the last three ...

Though the Indian Army did not set its boots on the Indian Ocean archipelago nation, New Delhi kept calling for restoration of all democratic institutions there. The crisis came to an end in September when Ibrahim Mohammed Solih, put up as the joint opposition candidate, defeated Yameen in the presidential election.

With Bangladesh too, defence diplomacy is on the upswing after Manohar Parrikar became the first ever Indian Defence Minister to visit the eastern neighbour. India has extended a $500-million line of credit (LoC) to Bangladesh to look at Indian defence products.

With Sri Lanka too, a similar line of credit has been extended and there has been exchange of visits by high-level military officers between India and the island nation. India is also holding defence dialogues with Myanmar after that country’s transition to a civilian-led government following the general elections in 2015. “With Myanmar, we have worked on various issues, especially in the maritime domain,” one of the sources familiar with the developments said.

Under the Act East Policy, India is building its defence ties with key Southeast Asian nations like Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. “We now have structured dialogues with Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia,” a source said. “We have signed an equipment-centred MoU (memorandum of understanding) with the Philippines.”

Extending further east, India has also boosted its defence ties with Japan and Australia. India, Japan and Australia, along with the US, are part of a quad revived in 2017 that seeks to work for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, a region that stretches from the east coast of Japan to the east coast of Africa. This comes in the face of China’s increasing footprint in the region and Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea.

Japan and India have held air force exercises, which is a significant development. The two sides have also set up the first ever joint venture for defence equipment production. With Australia, there has been a considerable forward movement in the last three years, according to the sources. Apart from the armies and navies of the two countries participating in joint exercises, the Indian Air Force also participated in Exercise Pitch Black organised by the Royal Australian Air Force.

However, the most remarkable transition in defence ties has been with India’s extended neighbourhood towards the west. The low-key defence relationship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has grown up considerably in the last two to three years.