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Opinion

Race for strategic locations and bases in the Indian Ocean region: CDS Gen Bipin Rawat

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The presence of more than 120 foreign warships in the Indian Ocean and a race for strategic bases that will gather momentum in the future reflects growing global interest in the region, Defense Chief of Staff Gen Bipin Rawat said on Friday.

Rawat’s comments, made in a virtual conference call, came in the context of key European powers like Germany and France that revealed strategies for assertive Indo-Pacific and Chinese actions in the region that have sparked concerns around the world.

India, he said, will have to leverage existing bilateral and multilateral mechanisms, including more training commitments with partner countries, to address such challenges while maintaining strategic autonomy in decision-making. The country will have to achieve its aspiration to become a great world power while living in a “difficult neighborhood” and an “increasingly disputed region,” he added.

Delivering the keynote address at the Global Dialogue Security Forum, Rawat said: “Currently, there are more than 120 warships of extra-regional forces deployed to the Indian Ocean region in support of various missions. So far, the region, in general, has remained peaceful although under dispute. ”

He added: “Lately, along with the geostrategic competition in the Indo-Pacific, we are also witnessing a race for strategic locations and bases in the Indian Ocean region, which is only going to gain momentum in the times to come.”

Building on the challenges facing India as a rising regional power, the country requires structured long-term planning for capacity building and capacity development of its defense forces, Rawat said at the opening session of the event. with the theme “The fight against the Indo-Pacific for domination”.

“In our quest to build a stronger India, we need a peaceful and stable security environment. We need to maintain strategic autonomy and cooperative relationships with extra-regional powers, underlined by strong regional ties that would provide us with a greater degree of strategic leverage ”, he added.

Many countries in the region are looking to reap economic dividends from improved connectivity and infrastructure projects, and powers within and outside the Indian Ocean region are investing in infrastructure development to “maintain and increase geopolitical influence,” Rawat said. .

“In recent years, China’s economic and political rise, along with competition to increase influence in the region, has attracted great interest,” he said in the context of the India-China border confrontation.

Governance and security are also under threat of being undermined by non-state actors and there is increasing naval competition between states, he said, adding: “To protect peace, prosperity and sovereignty, it is important for us to keep safe maritime communication lines at all times with strong control of the security dimension of this region ”.

Rawat called for building on existing mechanisms like JAI (Japan-Australia-India) and Asean-India to have the “right balance in our strategic autonomy”, saying: “The economic center of gravity is changing and will continue to change in this century, and with the major global supply chains passing through our region, the Indo-Pacific in general and the Indian Ocean region in particular will continue to be vital for global transit and trade. ”

Hindustan Times

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