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Act East Policy: India, South Korea sign logistics agreement to help Indian Navy operate in Indo-Pacific Region

Huma Siddiqui

India and South Korea have inked a military logistics agreement which will support each other's navies. At the end of delegation-level talks between defence Minister Rajnath Singh and South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo in Seoul, this was concluded and to take the defence industry cooperation to the next level the two sides also formulated a forward-looking road map. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said that both ministers also discussed and exchanged views on regional and international developments of mutual interest.

Sources have said such logistics agreement help the Indian Navy and also help in interoperability, especially when it operates in the Indo-Pacific Region in the ports of South Korea.

"India's increasing role and presence in the Indo-Pacific and its adherence to ensuring safe and secure seas in its area of responsibility will lead to further engagement with the region and more such logistic arrangements which would be mutually beneficial to India and the region," Commodore Anil Jai Singh,( Retd), Vice President and Head-Delhi branch, Indian Maritime Foundation, explained.

According to Commodore Singh, "In the last few years, India's pro-active foreign policy has led to significant strategic and defence engagement with the countries in the Indo-Pacific, both on her west and east. This has led to various logistic arrangements between the navies as well. While the LEMOA Agreement was one of the foundational agreements signed with the US, there have been numerous others which offer logistic support and berthing facilities to Indian Navy ships. These arrangements also include replenishment at sea from each other's underway replenishment ships and constitute an important element of capacity building and cooperative engagement."

During his keynote address at the Shangri-la Dialogue in June 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had clearly articulated India's understanding of the Indo-Pacific as covering the entire length and breadth of the Indian and the Pacific Oceans and had gone on to highlight the significant contribution expected from the Indian Navy.

The distinct maritime orientation of the Indo-Pacific, as its very name suggests, and India's pre-eminent status as the principal naval power in the Indian Ocean will ensure that the Indian Navy will also play an important part in India's shaping of the geopolitical contours of the region.

In the last few years, the Indian Navy has maintained an unprecedented operational tempo and the present operational concept of multi mission deployment with over a dozen major surface combatants deployed across the length and breadth of the Indo-Pacific has been possible because of the logistic support available to Indian Navy ships at various ports in the region and when operating bilateral or multilateral exercises with other friendly navies, from their replenishment resources, the former naval officer added.

This is also reciprocated by India. Besides facilitating longer deployments of ships at sea in distant waters it is an important confidence and capacity building measure with considerable diplomatic dividends.

The defence minister during his visit to Seoul also invited the South Korean industry to explore the feasibility of local production of items, used in main weapon systems imported by Defence public sector undertakings (PSUs).