India Ready to Arm Indian Ocean Allies with ‘Missiles, Radar, Tanks’

Army soldiers in a T-90 tank march past during a ceremony to celebrate India's 73rd Army Day in New Delhi on January 15, 2021. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP) (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty

India seeks to arm allied countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with various heavy weapons systems including missiles, radar, and tanks, the Indian defense ministry said on Thursday.

“India is ready to supply various types of Missile systems, Light Combat Aircrafts/Helicopters, Multi-Purpose Light Transport aircraft, Warship and Patrol Vessels, Artillery Gun systems, Tanks, Radars, Military Vehicles, Electronic Warfare Systems, and other weapons systems to IOR countries,” Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh said on February 4 during a keynote address at the IOR’s inaugural Defense Ministers’ Conclave (DMC), which is a forum promoting the development of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indian Ocean region.

The southern Indian city of Bengaluru hosted the IOR conference on February 4, which was timed to coincide with the 13th annual AeroIndia show, Asia’s largest military aviation exhibit, held February 2-5 at Bengaluru’s Yelahanka air force base.

“Many of the IOR countries are becoming globally competitive and are developing new technologies, including defense shipyards for design and shipbuilding, which can be jointly harnessed through regional cooperation efforts,” Singh said in Bengaluru.

Earlier on February 3, Singh said that New Delhi “could take on the role of being the net security provider in the IOR,” as India is the largest country in the IOR bloc, which includes 28 member states encircling the Indian Ocean, and controls a vast coastline in the region.

The IOR should focus on “security, commerce, connectivity, [the] fight against terrorism and inter-cultural exchanges among participating countries,” Singh said on February 4. India’s defense and aerospace industry presents “a significant and attractive opportunity for international companies across the supply chain to take their cooperation to newer levels,” he added.

Singapore’s defense minister, Dr. Ng Eng Hen, participated in Thursday’s IOR conference. In a pre-recorded message, Ng addressed “the importance of keeping Sea Lines of Communication above the fray of sovereign disputes and contestation, which is especially pertinent for maritime nations like India and Singapore, who depend on these global commons for trade and the movement of essential supplies,” alluding to China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Singapore will work with like-minded partners to preserve and advance maritime norms that protect these vital waterways, as well as to uphold the principles of freedom of navigation and over-flight in the maritime domain,” Ng added.

In addition to countering Chinese expansion in the Indian Ocean region, India has been working to resolve a months-long military standoff with China along their unmarked Himalayan boundary following deadly clashes between their border regiments last year.

India’s federal government on February 1 allocated “$18.48 billion for weapons procurement in its 2021-2022 defense budget,” according to Defense News.

“Excluding pensions, the new defense budget totals $49.6 billion, an increase of more than 3 percent from the previous year’s $47.98 billion. New capital expenditure of $18.48 billion meant for arms procurement witnessed an increase of about 16 percent from the previous year’s $15.91 billion,” the defense news site reported.

The allocation of funds was “the highest-ever increase in capital outlay” for Indian defense in the last 15 years, according to Singh, who thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the budget boost on Twitter.

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