India acts on China ‘threat’ with joint drills: analysts

By Deng Xiaoci Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/21 23:18:40

Holds drills with Singapore, projects with Japan

India's recent joint naval military drills with Singapore in the South China Sea and infrastructure projects with Japan could be New Delhi's response to China's military streamlining and its burgeoning Belt and Road initiative, Chinese analysts said on Sunday.

India and Singapore conducted a major seven-day naval exercise, code-named "SIMBEX" (Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise), where four Indian Navy warships and long range anti-submarine aircraft P-81 took part, to enhance interoperability between the two navies, Press Trust of India reported on Friday.

"India had promised not to take sides and provoke China on the South China Sea disputes. But the country is reneging on its promise by conducting such major drills in the area," Song Zhongping, a military expert who used to serve in the PLA Rocket Force, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Judging from the deployment of anti-submarine weapons, the purpose of the drills is clearly aimed at China's submarines in the India Ocean, which India regards as a threat to its influence in the area, Song said.

However, China's enhanced military presence in the Indian Ocean is only meant to protect its trade routes rather than a strategic military move against India, Song noted.

The high level of cooperation between India and Japan, including their "Freedom Corridor" that connects Asia-Pacific to Africa, can also be seen as pushback against China's Belt and Road initiative, Qian Feng, an expert at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, told the Global Times.

The close bilateral cooperation is the previous Obama administration's legacy, in which Japan and India were meant to keep China at bay, both politically and militarily, Qian said.

Qian also stressed that India's recent operations in Southeast Asia are a political investment. India could use its influence in ASEAN countries as a bargaining chip in negotiations with China, once ties between China and ASEAN countries get strained over South China Sea disputes.

According to India news portal The Economic Times on Tuesday, India and Japan are working on infrastructure projects, including the expansion of Iran's Chabahar port and Sri Lanka's Trincomalee port, and the development of the Dawei port along the Thai-Myanmar border.

India did not send an official delegation to last week's Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, which Indian media reported was a boycott due to concerns over "sovereignty and territorial integrity."

India experts have warned the government to rethink its position on the Belt and Road initiative, and address disputes and find innovative cooperative solutions.

Newspaper headline: India acts on China ‘threat’

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