Indian Warship Docks in Manila Amid Rising South China Sea Tensions

Indian Warship Docks in Manila Amid Rising South China Sea Tensions

Indian warship INS Kadmatt in Manila
Credits: Ministry of Defence (GODL-India)

In a significant development amidst escalating tensions in the South China Sea, an Indian warship has docked in Manila. This visit comes at a time when the Philippines is grappling with China’s assertive tactics in the region, often seen as a breach of international maritime norms.

Strengthening India-Philippines Ties

The arrival of the INS Kadmatt, an anti-submarine warfare corvette, on a goodwill visit, was an occasion for Indian ambassador to the Philippines, Shambhu Kumaran, to underline the robust bilateral relations between India and the Philippines. Both countries, recognized as fellow democracies, share a common interest in maintaining peace and stability in the region. Ambassador Kumaran emphasized India’s support for the Philippines in its maritime endeavors, advocating for adherence to the constitution of the seas.

Escalation of Regional Maritime Disputes

Recent incidents in the South China Sea have heightened regional tensions. Notably, Chinese vessels have been involved in confrontations with Filipino ships near the Second Thomas Shoal, an area within Manila’s exclusive economic zone. These incidents have sparked concerns about China’s expansive territorial claims and its aggressive posture in the disputed waters.

India’s Maritime Engagement with the Philippines

The INS Kadmatt’s visit is not just a diplomatic gesture but also a strategic move, as the ship is set to participate in a “maritime partnership exercise” with the Philippine Navy’s offshore patrol vessel, BRP Ramon. This exercise in the South China Sea signifies a deepening of maritime collaboration between India and the Philippines, particularly in a region where China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors are a growing concern.

India’s Expanding Military Cooperation with ASEAN

India’s engagement with the Philippines is part of its broader strategy to strengthen military ties with ASEAN countries. This strategy is evident in India’s recent agreement to supply Manila with three anti-ship coastal batteries of the 290-km-range BrahMos missiles, a deal valued at $375 million signed in January 2022.

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, at the ASEAN defence minister’s meeting-plus in Jakarta, reaffirmed India’s commitment to freedom of navigation, overflight, and unimpeded lawful commerce in international waters, in line with global norms.

Related: How Is China Using Naval Power to Bully Neighbors in the South China Sea?

Call for Adherence to International Norms

At the heart of India’s engagement in the region is the advocacy for adherence to international norms, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982. This stance, as articulated by Defence Minister Singh, underscores the need for collaboration among ASEAN countries and their dialogue partners to ensure peace, prosperity, and security in the region. India’s increasing involvement in Southeast Asia, particularly through defense and maritime collaborations, reflects its commitment to these principles and its role as a stabilizing force in the face of regional challenges.

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