NEW DELHI, -- India's steadily growing engagement with South East Asian nations is not indicative of India's confrontational mood with China.
India's Defense Minister, Manohar Parrikar, today urged the country's armed forces to establish stronger military partnerships with friendly foreign countries, especially, in South East Asia by conducting more joint military exercises involving more than one wing of the armed forces.
Parrikar said, "by virtue of our dominant, geographical location, India is poised for a predominant role in the volatile region around us. Hence, there is a requirement to exploit this advantage by developing joint capabilities."
Sources in the Defense Ministry say that this new found ambition to forge stronger military partnerships with South East Asian countries should not be seen as a confrontational move with China's claim on the South China Sea but as a covert tactic to export defense equipment to friendly nations of the region.
Last Friday, the Defense Minister had indicated that the Indian government was exploring the possibility of exporting different defense platforms including missile systems to friendly nations. He had said, "After my recent visit to Vietnam, the government has formed a group to look into all aspects of possible export. We are positive."
Of late, India has fast tracked its engagement with South East Asian nations. After a gap of many years, the Indian Defense Minister took part in the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in the beginning of this month. Last week, India hosted Thailand's Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha in New Delhi and promised to boost military and defense ties. Sources say that the Indonesian Defense Minister will also visit India very soon while Indian President Pranab Mukhejee will visit the Philippines later this year.
Indian Navy flotilla including aircraft carrier INS Viraat escorting INS Vikramaditya on its way home in 2014.