THE Philippines and India have entered into a new strategic partnership that would boost maritime security capabilities of two countries which include holding joint exercises between their Coast Guards and sharing of shipping information to thwart threats in the seas.
“Maritime security has emerged as an important element of the India-Philippines partnership,” Indian Ambassador to Manila Shambhu Kumaran told reporters in a news conference.
Last week, the Philippine and Indian Coast Guards signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Enhanced Maritime Cooperation that aims to improve their maritime law enforcement, maritime search and rescue as well as marine pollution response.
The MOU was signed during the visit of Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu to New Delhi last August 20-24. Indian Coast Guard Director General and Commandant Rakesh Pal signed the MoU for the Indian side.
Also, Admiral Abu and Indian Navy Admiral R Hari Kumar signed the standard operating procedure to operationalize the MOU on exchange of white shipping information on maritime domain awareness.
“Maritime domain is very large and there needs to be cooperation between like-minded countries to share real time information to address threats as they emerge,” Kumaran said. “(The SOP) will allow us to have a pathway to transfer information and therefore help both countries have greater awareness of what is happening in the maritime domain.”
The Indian Navy is the host of the regional maritime security center called Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) which monitors threats in the Indian Ocean such as maritime terrorism, piracy, armed robbery, human and contraband trafficking, and illegal, unregulated fishing. The IFC-IOR has 12 partner-nations including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, France, and Singapore.
The five-member Philippine Coast Guard delegation also visited one of India’s largest shipyards in Goa and toured the offshore patrol vessel Sujeet made by Goa Shipyard Ltd.
“We also had him (Admiral Abu) take a demonstration flight on the Indian advanced light helicopter which is something that we would like to look at broadening the defense industrial engagement, also with the Philippines Coast Guard as it looks to augment its capabilities,” the Indian envoy said.
India has recently developed its own light helicopter called ICG Advance Light Helicopter MK-III that could have a multi-role of maritime reconnaissance and search and rescue. It has the ability to switch from carrying heavy machine guns to carrying a medical intensive care unit to facilitate transfer of critically ill patients.
Manila and New Delhi have also agreed on holding two tracks for maritime affairs dialogue. The Track 2 Dialogue will commence this month in Manila to identify areas of engagement. The Indian National Maritime Foundation will attend as delegation members.
“India and the Philippines both have very great stakes in in the maritime domain so this is an area that there’s a natural complementarity of interests,” he said.
Just like the Philippines, India is also a maritime nation with a 7,500 km- coastline. Both also deploy seafarers to the commercial ships plying international routes.
“We have a lot of seafarers from both India and the Philippines worldwide. A lot of issues that are that need to be addressed some of the issues that came up during the pandemic in terms of one of the critical elements as to how we were able to keep global trade going was because the international merchant shipping fleet was manned very ably by people from countries such as India and the Philippines. So that’s an area where we would like to have an engagement,” he added.