India’s navy chief is paying an official trip to Indonesia this week as both sides try to build on maritime cooperation, India’s defense ministry said in a press release Sunday.
Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Chief of the Naval Staff, is on an official tour to Indonesia from August 9-13. According to the Indian defense ministry, the visit “aims to consolidate existing maritime cooperation initiatives with Indonesia as well as explore new avenues in accordance with India’s ‘Act East Policy.’”
The Act East Policy is a deliberate attempt by India’s government, now led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to signal a more action-oriented policy towards ASEAN specifically and East Asia more generally, in contrast to India’s original ‘Look East Policy’ formulated under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in the 1990s (See: “Modi Unveils India’s Act East Policy to ASEAN in Myanmar”).
India and Indonesia have a strong defense relationship that includes a naval dimension. The two countries, which share a maritime boundary, have been enhancing their maritime cooperation over the years. Today, the navies conduct Navy to Navy staff talks; participate in port visits and training exchanges; participate in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS); and carry out coordinated patrols along the international maritime boundary.
During his trip to Indonesia, the largest country in ASEAN, Lanba is expected to discuss potential areas of further cooperation. He is scheduled to hold discussions with the Indonesian Defense Minister, Chief of Defense Forces, Chief of Indonesian Navy, and other senior dignitaries and naval officers.
Among the items on the agenda will be discussions on the progress on coordinated patrols. As I’ve written before, coordinated patrols between the two Asian states have seen some advancement of late. The Ind-Indo CORPAT between the Indian Navy and Indonesian Navy was expanded include the holding of the first ever bilateral maritime exercise last October (See: “India, Indonesia Kick Off Joint Naval Patrols”). The inaugural India-Indonesia Bilateral Maritime Exercise was held from 17-18 October in the Andaman Sea.