The defense ministry statement said the warships will depart India early this month, without any specific departure date.
The task force, consisting of a guided-missile destroyer, guided-missile frigate, anti-submarine corvette and guided-missile corvette, will participate in a series of exercises during a two-month deployment, including the Malabar 2021 naval exercise with the US, Japanese Huh. and the Australian Army.
The Defense Ministry said that in other bilateral exercises during the deployment, Indian warships will work with naval units of the littoral states of the South China Sea, including Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
“These maritime initiatives enhance synergy and coordination between the Indian Navy and friendly countries based on a commitment to common maritime interests and freedom of navigation at sea,” the Indian statement said.
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory, turning many obscure reefs and sandbars throughout the waterway into man-made artificial islands that are fortified with missiles, runways and weapons systems.
S in Singapore. Colin Koh, a research fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the deployment, an edition of which he says is carried out annually, is “India’s most visible ‘flag display’ in the Straits of Malacca.”
But Koh said he does not expect Indian ships to clash, or any freedom-navigation operations near Chinese-claimed islands in the South China Sea.
“The mere presence of ships in the South China Sea, even if outside the 12 (nautical miles) range of each of the Chinese occupied territories, is intended to serve New Delhi’s strategic objectives of signaling its intention to engage in the Western Pacific. That would be enough,” Koh said.
China regularly condemns the presence of foreign naval forces in the South China Sea. Prior to the recent deployment of Britain’s Carrier Strike Group, Chinese state-media accused the United Kingdom of attempting to relive the “glory days of the British Empire”, while trying to cause trouble at the behest of the US.
Since taking office, US President Joe Biden has placed a renewed focus on Asia, positioning it as the foundation of his foreign policy agenda. Amid efforts to counter Beijing, the Biden administration has welcomed the presence of democratic allies and partners in the region.
Speaking during a visit to Singapore last month, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin underscored the importance of increasing cooperation. “I am particularly encouraging our friends to build stronger security ties with each other, to further strengthen the chain of partnership,” Austin said during a speech in Singapore.
The US Defense Chief also echoed India’s statement on the deployment of four warships.
“In addition to regular port calls, the Task Group will work closely with friendly navies, to build military ties and develop interoperability in the conduct of maritime operations,” it said.
Indian ties with China collapsed last year after a deadly clash between ground troops of the two neighbors over a disputed area in the Himalayas.
Since the incident, India has reaffirmed ties with the Quad, an informal security relationship between the US, Japan, India and Australia.
After the virtual summit of the leaders of those countries in March, the four wrote an opinion column in the Washington Post.
The coalition said it is “trying to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is accessible and dynamic, governed by international law and fundamental principles such as freedom of navigation and the peaceful resolution of disputes, and that all countries have their own are capable of making political choices, free from coercion,” it said.
Monday’s Indian statement touched on those subjects.
“The deployment of Indian Navy ships seeks to underline operational access, peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly countries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain and strengthening the existing ties between India and the countries of the Indo Pacific.”