India seeks to widen Indo-Pacific partnership with Philippines amid China’s aggression

PM Narendra Modi’s recent conversation with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is significant as it opens up the possibility of wider Indo-Pacific partnership between Delhi and Manila in the backdrop of China’s tough posturing along the LAC and South China Sea region.

While conversation focussed on fight against Covid both leaders also shared satisfaction in its bilateral relationship, including defense cooperation, with Modi noting how India sees the Philippines as a “vital partner” in the Indo-Pacific region. The Philippines also expressed similar sentiments, ET has learnt.

The Philippines President in fact wanted India to play a bigger role in the Indo-Pacific region.

As part of growing defence partnership Philippines Navy Chief Giovanni Carlo J. Bacordo praised the Indian Navy for helping out one of its navy ship after a fire broke out in engine room which injured two Philippines navy personnel.

Fire had broken in Philippines’ ship BRP Ramon Alcaraz on May 7. India not only repaired the ship free of cost at Navy Shipyard in Kochi but took care of the both the personnel in Indian hospitals.

The Philippine Navy chief Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo J. Bacordo in a letter to Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh wrote,”your support in this unfortunate accident is way beyond our expectations and it is a testament of your sincerity in deepening our Navy to Navy partnership. Rest assured that the Philippine Navy remains committed to this Partnership. We hope to expand this relationship as we seek better ways to make our seas safer and more secure for everyone…fervent wishes for your continuing success in leading the Indian Navy’s sustained resolve to be a global maritime force”.

Gen Filemon Santos, Chief of Staff Armed Forces of the Philippines also wrote to CDS Gen Bipin Rawat lauding him for Delhi’s assistance.

The mainstay of bilateral defence cooperation continue to be capacity building and training, exchange visits of delegations and naval and coast guard ship visits. Secretary, National Defense, Delfin Lorenzana visited India with a five member delegation for the first ever bilateral defence minister level visit from 8-11 March 2018. Apart from bilateral interactions with his counterpart, he also visited defence establishments and defence equipment production centres in India.

Philippines also participated in the Def-Expo in April 2018. Indian Navy and coast guard ships regularly visit the Philippines and hold consultations with their counterparts. Recently, ICGS Shaunak visited Manila on 1st February 2019 on the occasion of Indian Coast Guard Day. Indian Navy Vessel, INS Rana (D52) visited Manila from 23-26 October 2018. ICGS Shaurya visited Manila from December 1-5, 2017, INS Satpura and INS Kadmatt visited Manila from 3-6 October 2017, Indian Coast guard Ship ICGS Samarth visited Manila from 7-10 January 2017, INS Sahyadri and INS Sakthi visited Manila on a goodwill visit to Subic Bay from 30 May -2 June 2016;INS Sahyadri visited Manila from 1-4 November 2015; and from 20-23 August 2014; ICGS Samudra Paheredar visited Manila from 19-22 September 2014; a flotilla of four Indian ships from the Eastern Fleet, namely INS Shakti, INS Satupura, INS Ranjit and INS Kirch visited Manila on a goodwill visit from 12-16 June, 2013.

The participation of officers of the armed forces of both countries in various specialized training courses in each other’s countries has intensified, as have visits by National Defence College (NDC) delegations, including the first ever NDC visit from the Philippines to India. A delegation from the College of Defence Management of India visited Philippines from 23-31 October 2015 and again in October, 2018; a delegation from Army High Command Course of India visited the Philippines from 10-14 November 2014. INTELLEX meetings have contributed towards sharing and exchanging information on a range of sensitive issues; the last INTELLEX meeting took place in Manila in January 2015 with the previous one being held in New Delhi in February 2013. In recognition of the need to further strengthen defence cooperation, the Joint Defence Cooperation Committee was constituted and had its first meeting in Manila in January 2012 followed by the 2nd meeting in New Delhi on 24 March 2017.

On 21 October 2018, a 21 member delegation from the College of Defense Management (CDM) Secunderabad visited Manila.The visit was a part of the International Strategic Management tour of the higher defense management course-14 of CDM Secunderabad. Government of India sent an Indian Air Force flight with relief material for the victims of super typhoon ‘Haiyan, which struck Philippines on 7-8 November 2013. Following the tragic loss of life, livelihood and property as a result of typhoon Pablo/Bopha, which struck southern Philippines in December 2012, the Government of India provided disaster relief assistance of $200,000 to the Philippines Government and $ 100,000 as disaster relief assistance following the October 2013 earthquake in Bohol. India announced an immediate relief assistance of $ 500,000(equivalent to 25 million pesos) on 11 July 2017 for the relief and rehabilitation efforts underway in the city of Marawi which had come under siege on May 23, 2017 after armed terrorists belonging to the Maute group owing allegiance to ISIS took over the city.

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