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Brahmos Supersonic Missile Talk Spotlights India-Philippines Defense Cooperation

While specifics remain unclear, the chatter has put the emphasis on a development that could be significant for the bilateral relationship.

Brahmos Supersonic Missile Talk Spotlights India-Philippines Defense Cooperation

A previous meeting between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Credit: Flickr/meaindia

Last week, there was renewed talk of the Philippines’ interest in acquiring Brahmos missiles from India following a briefing that army personnel had received during a visit of Indian warships. The new round of chatter spotlighted some of the ongoing activity between the two sides within their broader defense relationship.

India and the Philippines have a defense relationship as part of their wider ties. While collaboration has been quite basic, focusing on interactions such as naval ship visits and military training and education and area such as disaster relief and counterterrorism, both sides have attempted to boost ties in areas such as military equipment and maritime security. As a case in point, just earlier this month, when Indian Prime Minister Ram Nath Kovind paid a visit to the Philippines as both sides commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations, one of the four key agreements that was signed was a pact on white shipping.

One of the aspects of India-Philippines defense collaboration that has been in the headlines is the Philippines’ acquisition of Brahmos supersonic missiles. Earlier this month, The Philippine Star had quoted an anonymous senior military official as saying that talks were ongoing for the Philippine Army’s Brahmos missile acquisition project with India, with the missiles being ideal for the service’s land-based territorial defense operations.

This week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with talk of the Philippines’ interest in acquiring Brahmos missiles from India. The talk came when Philippine military personnel were briefed about the Brahmos missile during the visit of Indian warships to the Philippines and indicated the Southeast Asian state’s interest.

According to the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Army spokesperson Ramon Zagala had said that during the goodwill visit of two Indian warships to the Philippines from October 23 to October 26 – the INS Sahyadri, a “Shivalik”-class guided missile frigate and the anti-submarine corvette, the INS Kiltan – Philippe Army officials led by Major General Reynaldo M. Aquino were toured aboard the INS Sahyadri and were briefed about the Brahmos missile. Zagala added that the Philippine Army “is interested in acquiring this type of missile as it will strengthen our coastal defense operations.”

To be sure, it is unclear as of this stage whether the Philippines’ interest in Brahmos missiles will actually translate into reality. And few additional specifics have been offered that would be necessary to assess the future prospects of this aspect of collaboration. Nonetheless, given the potential significance of this development for Philippine military modernization as well as for India-Philippines defense ties, this will continue to be important to monitor in the coming months and years.