Naval war games close to China beneficial: Antony

October 12th, 2011 - 10:04 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) In observations that could raise the hackles of China, India Wednesday acknowledged the benefits of holding joint exercises with global and regional powers such as the US, Japan and Vietnam in the South China Sea, East China Sea and the Western Pacific Ocean.

“The several joint maritime exercises with have had with regional navies in South China Sea, East China Sea and the Western Pacific have brought benefits,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony said while addressing a conference of Indian Navy commanders.

The Indian Navy has been frequently venturing to these seas close to China for war games with the Americans and Japanese, and the Vietnamese.

An Indian naval warship sailing in South China Sea was reportedly confronted by China, which asked it to return from the area, claiming the waters belonged to it. Indian oil companies have begun exploration in blocks owned by Vietnam in South China Sea and Indian warships frequent Vietnamese ports on calls.

However, Antony stressed the need to maintain a balance between the various responsibilities of the Indian Navy.

“Although reaching out to our extended neighbourhood is important, you must always be mindful of the core area of your responsibility that mainly includes preserving and strengthening our shorelines and coastal security.” he said.

Antony also pointed out that India had the ability to be a potent and stabilising force in the Indian Ocean region with major international shipping lanes passing closer to its island territories.

He noted that Indian Navy had been “mandated to be a net security provider to island nations in the Indian Ocean region,” apart from assuring India’s maritime neighbours that the South Asian giant will provide “unstinted support for their security and economic prosperity”.

“Most of the major international shipping lanes are located along our island territories. This bestows on us the ability to be a potent and stabilising force in the region,” Antony said.

“We assure our maritime neighbours of our unstinted support for their security and economic prosperity,” he added.

Antony said the development of infrastructure in the island territories must be pursued in synergy with other stake-holders.

On the coastal security front, Antony said India had taken several measures to strengthen security along the 7,500-km long coastline, but that should not let complacency creep into the maritime security forces.

“We have taken several measures to strengthen our coastal security. Our maritime forces are capable of protecting our maritime frontiers. However, this should not lead to a feeling of complacency.”

He went on to say that “isolated incidents, which though directly did not pose a challenge to maritime security, highlighted the need to further strengthen our coastlines and maritime security”.

He also emphasised the need to replicate coastal security exercises with all stakeholders “as frequently as possible”.

On other issues and challenges facing the navy, Antony said piracy was “a continuing cause” of major concern, but noted that “the international community as a whole needs to do a lot more collectively”.

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