India’s Expansion Into the Indian Ocean Region
As India is looking towards expanding its strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean as the trilateral security group of India, Maldives and Sri Lanka will be getting expanded in order to include Mauritius and Seychelles. A meeting has been set for December 19th by the senior officials of the trilateral group in order to prepare the ground for a formal joining of the three countries, where the deputy national security advisor Nehchal Sandhu will be leading the Indian delegation.
From this third trilateral meeting at the NSA level, the government is hoping to be able to formalize an arrangement before the general elections come up. The external affairs ministry is also crafting a new territorial division in order to take care of the Indian Ocean countries as they have taken the matter of the Indian Ocean more seriously as a target for Indian’s diplomacy. Following the second trilateral meeting, the three countries had decided to harmonize the identification and tracking services and training in maritime domain awareness as India becomes committed to sharing the Automatic Identification system (AIS) data, coordinate the efforts on search and rescue efforts etc. India has agreed to share with Sri Lanka and Maldives its long range identification centre (LRIT) and merchant ship information system (MSIS) for tracking the merchant vessels.
The three countries have also come into an agreement in order to intensify surveillance of each other’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in which India has taken lead in order to make an effort to tie other countries in an information and security network. This will enable Indian information systems to be the key holder. Maldives have complained that India has not provided many radars which was promised to monitor the 26 atolls of the island nation, and there were delays by India which makes these countries think that it would be better to seek out China as an alternative source of security, which is something which India wants to avoid
When looking at the recent years, China has made way it’s way through the Indian ocean region which would include the Maldives and Sri Lanka. As India’s political relationship with Sri Lanka seems to be deteriorating, the security establishment fears the impact on the security relationship between the two countries. The U.S. has offered to set up a security presence in the Maldives, and have even proposed a bilateral security agreement, and though it has been delayed for the present time, the Indian officials say that it could return any time.