In what can be considered as a boost to India’s efforts to consolidate and forge strong maritime relations with Indonesia, the Navies of the two nations conducted a Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) along the Indian Ocean from June 13 to June 24.
The 11-day stint was conducted as part of the 38th edition of the India-Indonesia CORPAT, something which the two navies have been carrying out along the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) every year since 2002. One of the main objectives of this exercise is to keep this vital part of the Indian Ocean Region safe and secure for commercial shipping and international trade.
Representing the Indian Navy in this exercise was the Naval Ship INS Karmuk, an indigenously built Missile Corvette based at the Andaman and Nicobar Command and a Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Meanwhile, the Indonesian Navy was represented by KRI Cut Nyak Dien, a Kapitan Pattimura (PARCHIM I) class Corvette.
It was just two months ago, in April, when both the countries, during the 7th round of India-Indonesia Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) emphasised the need for greater maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. In the meeting that was chaired in Jakarta, both sides reviewed their overall bilateral relationship, covering political exchanges, defence and security cooperation, trade and economic matters, and consular issues.
“Maritime interaction between India and Indonesia has expanded substantially with frequent port visits, participation in bilateral/ multilateral exercises and training exchanges. The CORPAT has also strengthened understanding and interoperability between the navies and facilitated the institution of measures to prevent unlawful activities at sea as well as to conduct Search and Rescue (SAR) operations,” the Indian Navy said in a statement on Thursday.
The Indonesian warship, during its three-day port call at Port Blair, participated in multiple activities including professional discussions, pre-sail conference and various sports fixtures.
According to the Indian Navy, the coordinated patrol exercise has helped both the navies to get a better understanding of the operating procedure of each other, as well as in enhancing interoperability whilst facilitating institutional measures for preventing/ suppressing Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) fishing, drug trafficking, maritime terrorism, armed robbery and piracy in the region.
Considered to be home to vital sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) and some of the busiest seaports in the world as well as witnessing more than half of the world’s maritime trade, it is safe to say that India and Indonesia are two of the most important maritime powers in the Indo-Pacific region.
And hence, exercises such as the CORPAT, which are likely to give a boost to the strategic relationship between both the countries would play a major role in improving the stability of the Indo-Pacific region.
The other important factor that makes it important to strengthen the security partnership of both India and Indonesia is the shared threat that both nations face in the form of China. “As China continues to grow in material capabilities, its assertive actions throughout the region are hard to miss,” writes Don McLain Gill, in an article for The Diplomat. He says that China’s naval activities and military facilities have greatly enhanced its reach in the South China Sea, which is a cause of concern for Indonesia.
On the other hand, China’s increased activity in the Indian Ocean and its growing proximity to the Pakistani Navy has also been a cause of concern for India. And hence, both India and Indonesia are very well aware of the need of building a strategic partnership to counter such threats posed by China.