India, Sept. 9 — India, Thailand and Singapore will join hands for their first-ever trilateral naval exercise in the Andaman Sea between September 16 and 20 with an eye on ensuring free and unhindered shipping flow through the Malacca Straits, according to top officials familiar with the plan.
The trilateral exercise could turn multilateral with India hoping that navies from Malaysia and Indonesia would join next year. More than half the world’s shipping trade is conducted through the Malacca Straits.
“Strengthening engagement in South East Asia, India and Indonesia are expected to set up the first joint task force for better connectivity between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Banda Aceh,” said one of the officials cited above.
The modalities of the joint task force were discussed between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Indonesian counterpart on September 5 even as two Indian warships paid a visit to the Sabang port on the mouth of the vital Malacca Straits.
The joint task force with Indonesia has been formed and the first meeting will be held later this year. Both countries have decided to join hands in building infrastructure in island territories such as Banda Aceh, which is merely 163 kilometres from Indira Point.
The India-Singapore-Thailand trilateral exercise involving Indian destroyer Ranvir along with a Singapore frigate and Thai multi-purpose warship will assemble at Port Blair on September 16 and disburse on September 20 after conducting manoeuvres.
Keen to cement its deep security ties in the region, India is hopeful that Malaysia and Indonesia will join the next naval exercises to ensure that sea lanes connecting the Indian Ocean with the Pacific are protected from any unilateral aggressive move.
Jaishankar is in Singapore to inaugurate the second edition of the India-Singapore business and innovation summit and will also hold bilateral talks with the Singapore PM, deputy PM, foreign and home ministers.
Commerce, urban development and civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri will also participate in the two-day summit, which showcases bilateral prowess in areas of high-end technology in the finance, education and digital space.
Singapore is a very important trading partner of India with a cumulative investment of $82.99 billion coming from the city nation between April 2000 and March 2019.
The FDI flows from Singapore to India in the 2017-2018 fiscal were $12.2 billion and climbed to $16.3 billion in 2018-19.
Source from HT media