Srinagar, India (diplomat.so) - India, traditionally focused on land border defense, is now asserting its naval power in international waters to safeguard global trade and security.
In response to Yemen-based Houthi rebels targeting ships in solidarity with Hamas, disrupting vital trade routes, India deployed three guided missile destroyers and reconnaissance aircraft in November. This move aims to protect ships and combat piracy, demonstrating India's commitment to maritime stability.
Vice Adm. Anil Kumar Chawla emphasized India's proactive role in global maritime security, positioning itself as a responsible naval power. This deployment serves as a message to regional rival China, showcasing India's capabilities and its desire to play a larger role in maritime security.
India's naval efforts have already assisted several ships attacked by Houthi rebels and responded to distress calls, underscoring its growing involvement in maritime security. However, India has not joined the U.S.-led force against the Houthis.
Experts attribute India's maritime focus to its competition with China, which has increased its presence in the Indian Ocean through infrastructure deals with neighboring countries. India's strategic partnerships, growing defense budget allocation to the navy, and participation in joint exercises highlight its commitment to maritime security.
While India, the U.S., Australia, and Japan form the Indo-Pacific strategic alliance to counter China's assertiveness, India's current focus remains on safeguarding shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, with the South China Sea posing a concern due to China's dominance.
Despite limitations in projecting power into the South China Sea, India's naval expansion underscores its evolving role as a maritime power in the Indo-Pacific region.