In Strategic Shift, India Building Its Navy To Become Maritime Power: US Expert

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It sees its role across Indian Ocean as a “net provider of regional security” and, like US, is a votary of freedom of navigation: Alyssa Ayres

In an emerging strategic transformation, India is now considering itself as maritime power and building up its navy to meet that challenge after having thought of itself for a long time as a land power, according to a former senior US diplomat who is a leading expert on South Asia.

India increasingly sees its role across the Indian Ocean as a “net provider of regional security,” which is echoed by the US Secretaries of Defence and State when they talk about its role in the region, Alyssa Ayres, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, said on Wednesday.

“There is a transformation of the way the Indian Navy talks about the seas, from using the seas to securing the seas — this whole idea of New Delhi now playing a role in protecting the freedom of navigation as opposed to just the sealanes that the Indian Navy uses,” she said.

Ms. Ayres, who is now a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the recently-published Our Time Has Come: How India is Making Its Place in the World, was speaking at the Asia Society here on “India 2018” a look at the year ahead.

China’s provocative activities ::

When thinking about the strategic future, there is concern about China’s activities in East and Southeast Asia, the expert said.

As a result, the US and India share an interest in ensuring that the sealanes remain open.

“India like the US is a vocal advocate of freedom of navigation,” she said. “The US and India are both very focused on this issue.”

“What you have seen in the last four-five months is an increasing convergence, where [President Donald] Trump’s administration has picked up what the Indian, the Japanese and the Australian government talk about, a concept of the Indo-Pacific region,” she said.

While the US traditionally spoke of the Asia-Pacific region, the Australians, Japanese and Indian leaders had a broader concept of the Indo-Pacific region, Ms. Ayres said.

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