Washington is looking to Asian allies to counter Beijing’s rising influence. After coordinating military exercises with a number of countries in the South China Sea, the US is now hoping to extend military cooperation to India.
Over 7,400 miles from the US mainland, the South China Sea has become something of a pet project for Washington. Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago has sparked the ire of the US, which has in turn increased its military presence in the region.
Looking westward, the Pentagon could soon extend its China-deterrence operations into the Indian Ocean, with help from New Delhi.
According to US military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, the United States and India are in talks to coordinate anti-submarine efforts in the Indian Ocean in an effort to track any Chinese subs entering the region.
“These types of basic engagements will be the building blocks for an enduring Navy-to-Navy relationship that we hope will grow over time into a shared ASW [anti-submarine warfare] capability,” the official said.
India has historically been reluctant to join American military partnerships, but last month the government agreed to open up military bases for use by the Pentagon. In exchange, Washington agreed to provide India with weapons technology aimed at competing with China.
The two countries have also participated in joint military exercises recently, with another planned for June. According to an Indian naval official, those drills will focus on anti-submarine warfare.
While the initial goal is to coordinate surveillance activities, officials say that this will eventually lead to both countries sharing patrol duties across the entire Indian Ocean.
According to David Brewster, a security expert with the Australian National University, Australia will likely also take part in this cooperation, given its recent acquisition of a dozen new submarines.
“We are likely to ultimately see a division of responsibilities in the Indian Ocean between those three countries, and with the potential to also share facilities,” he said.
On Sunday, India’s first conventional submarine, Kalvari, conducted its first successful test.
“The trial was successful. It will soon be commissioned into the Indian Navy,” Indian Navy spokesman DK Sharma told Sputnik.
Likely to participate in submarine tracking drills, Kalvari will be equipped with nuclear-tipped missiles.
In the face of growing US aggression, China has urged for calm and stressed the legitimacy of its land reclamation projects. Beijing maintains that it has every right to build within its own territory and stresses that the islands will be used primarily for humanitarian purposes.
Asked about the possibility of cooperation between Washington and New Delhi, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying expressed “hope that the relevant cooperation is normal, and that it can be meaningful to the peace and stability of the region.”