India and Philippines Forge Closer Bonds Amidst Regional Challenges

India and Philippines Forge Closer Bonds Amidst Regional Challenges

In a significant move, India and the Philippines are gearing up to enhance their defense cooperation, a step that comes in the wake of the Southeast Asian nation's noteworthy acquisition of a BrahMos missile. As per individuals familiar with the situation, discussions surrounding a defense line of credit have gained momentum.

While the specific extent of the assistance being extended is still being negotiated, officials from the Philippines have paid visits to several Indian defense companies, including Kalyani Strategic Systems, to evaluate their offerings. At the moment, we await responses to inquiries sent to the concerned company.

This offer of a line of credit isn't new; India initially proposed it in 2018. This proposition was reaffirmed during a meeting in June between the foreign ministers of both nations, S. Jaishankar and Enrique Manalo.

"In the realm of defense cooperation, both ministers have expressed a keen desire to continue their collaborative efforts. This includes strengthening interactions between defense agencies at official levels, establishing a resident defense attaché office in Manila, considering India's offer for a concessional line of credit to meet the defense needs of the Philippines, procuring naval assets, and expanding joint exercises focused on maritime security and disaster response," reads a joint statement released post the ministers' meeting.

However, the collaboration goes beyond mere equipment provision. India has also extended its support in the domains of hydrography and maritime affairs.

India and Philippines Forge Closer Bonds Amidst Regional Challenges

"Recognizing the growing significance of the maritime sector for both countries, the ministers have welcomed the bilateral Maritime Dialogue and the increased cooperation in hydrography," as highlighted in the same joint statement.

Furthermore, they underscore the importance of maritime domain awareness and the need for the prompt activation of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the White Shipping Agreement between the Indian Navy (IN) and the Philippines Coast Guard (PCG).

Both the Indian Coast Guard and the Philippines Coast Guard are diligently working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) pertaining to Enhanced Maritime Cooperation.

This development unfolds against the backdrop of heightened military tensions between the Philippines and China over disputed islands in the South China Sea. In early August, the Philippines raised concerns about Chinese vessels encroaching on its waters and obstructing the resupply of troops stationed in the Spratly Islands. This situation has escalated into a diplomatic standoff, with President Marcos of the Philippines publicly expressing apprehensions over Chinese actions.

The two nations jointly emphasize their mutual interest in an open, inclusive, and free Indo-Pacific region. They reiterate the importance of resolving disputes through peaceful means and adhering to international laws, particularly the UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award concerning the South China Sea. The 2016 Arbitral Award references a verdict by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which sided with the Philippines and invalidated China's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

India has been actively supporting various regional countries, including Vietnam, in bolstering their defense capabilities as a countermeasure against China's growing military influence. India notably extended a $100 million line of credit to Vietnam, facilitating the acquisition of high-speed patrol boats. Additionally, the two nations are engaged in discussions about a new $500 million defense line of credit.

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