Indian Naval Ship INS Shardul made a port call at Antsiranana, Madagascar as part of First Training Squadron’s (1TS) Overseas Deployment from 21 – 24 Mar 21. Officer trainees of the 99th Integrated Officer Training Course are embarked onboard during the ship’s visit. India and Madagascar share a strong maritime relation and visit by the First Training Squadron to Antsiranana is a step towards further strengthening the bonds of friendship between the two nations.
On 24th, INS Shardul and Malagasy Naval Ship Trozona undertook Joint Patrol of Madagascar’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The Indian embassy in a statement said that for the first time the navies of India and Madagascar will jointly patrol Madagascar’s EEZ. “INS Shardul and Malagasy Naval Ship Trozona undertook Joint Patrol of Madagascar’s Exclusive Economic Zone today and participated in PASSEX (passage exercise),” it said.
The passage exercise is significant as India aims to increase its presence in the Indian Ocean, a region whose free movement is now being threatened by Chinese presence. It can be recalled that several African nations have become part of China’s Belt and Road project and many are on the way to allow free access to Chinese vessels to their ports. This is bound to increase tensions in the area and also threaten free movement given the attitude of China in the South-China sea and the Eastern Indian Ocean region.
The joint patrol with Madagascar, a key partner in ensuring safe waters, is also aimed at expanding India’s security and economic cooperation with the US and France in the region. Recently, Madagascar Defence Minister Richard Rakotonirina had remarked that Madagascar wanted to gain from “maritime superpower” India through joint military exercises, capacity building and establishment of a semaphore system on the coast for white shipping.
Rakotonirina had visited India in the first week of February to participate in the Aero India 2021 and IOR defence ministers conclave in Bengaluru. “For Indian Ocean countries, India represents a security umbrella which maintains peace and prosperity in the area”, he had said.
“The Joint exercise bears testimony to the growing bonds between the maritime forces of both the nations and aimed at common objectives of ensuring maritime security by India and Madagascar and interoperability between the two navies”, said Indian Navy in its statement.
Before the joint naval exercise, India said that the “The first ever Joint Patrol between the navies of India and Madagascar reflects the growing defence ties between the two Indian Ocean neighbours aimed at the common objective of ensuring maritime security in the Indian Ocean. India remains committed to further strengthening its partnership with Madagascar that aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region) for the Indian Ocean Region.”
Likewise, in pursuance with vision of SAGAR, INS Sarvekshak, IndianNavy’s Hydrographic Survey Ship, entered Port Louis in Mauritius on 25 March to undertake Hydrographic Survey off Mauritius. It aims to contribute towards Capacity Building of Mauritian Hydrographers.
Given the strategic significance of western Indian Ocean, where China is investing heavily in infrastructure and connectivity using the OBOR, in 2019 India embarked on an initiative to bring countries in the region under one umbrella. Named the Indian Ocean Region Division, it included Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles.
This division now also includes Madagascar, Comoros and the French Reunion in the western Indian Ocean. India’s active presence in the region is paramount to the safety and security of the region both to keep a check on piracy on seas and hegemonic forces out to capture new lands.