This week, the Indian and Philippine coast guards carried out a bilateral maritime exercise. Though the interaction did not receive widespread media coverage, it was nonetheless significant within the context of the ongoing defense cooperation between the two sides, which extends into the maritime domain.
As I have noted before in these pages, India-Philippines defense collaboration still remains at quite a basic level relatively speaking, even when compared to some of New Delhi’s more advanced relationships in Southeast Asia itself, such as with Singapore (See: “Why the New India-Singapore Naval Pact Matters”). Yet the maritime realm has factored into existing and potential future cooperation, be it in terms of naval ships visits or opportunities for some military training and education.
Just last month, two Indian Navy warships made a goodwill visit to the Philippines as part of a broader deployment to East and Southeast Asia covering 12 ports tied to the 25th anniversary commemoration of ASEAN-India relations, which is set to continue on into 2018 as well. And during Modi’s first-ever visit to the Philippines as prime minister last month – the first by an Indian premier in nearly four decades –where he met with President Rodrigo Duterte as well as participated in this year’s round of Asian summitry, both sides inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on defense cooperation and logistics (See: “What’s Next for India-Philippines Defense Cooperation?”) in a development that did not receive widespread media coverage.
This month, another of these interactions put the spotlight on the ongoing defense ties between the two countries. On December 1, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ship Shaurya, the fifth in a series of six 105-meter Samarth-class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) Flight I of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), began a goodwill visit to Manila. The Shaurya was initially berthed at Pier 15 in Manila South Harbor, with ICGS CO DIG D.S. Chauhan, the ship’s commanding officer, welcomed by Commodore Legaspi of the Philippine Coast Guard. Both services had several interactions thereafter, and the ship was also subsequently open to visitors on December 3, as is typical during such engagements.
On December 5, the two coast guards conducted a bilateral maritime exercise in the waters of Manila Bay. The PCG said that both sides had simulated drills involving search and rescue scenarios to enhance their communication capabilities while conducting missions. Though few additional details were publicly provided, the engagement was nonetheless a reminder of the ongoing defense cooperation between the two countries in the maritime domain.