April 4, 2011 6:43:38 pm
While it sails the far seas and conducts high profile joint exercises around the world,the Indian Navy has not forgotten the importance of tending the maritime neighbourhood.
Adm Nirmal Verma,the Chief of Naval Staff is in Bangladesh on a five-day official tour that started on Sunday. During his stay Adm Verma will visit the three major ports of the nationChittagong,Mongla and Khulna. He will also call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Zillur Rehman.
Adm Vermas visit is indeed a part of Delhis current commitment to deepen the bilateral engagement with Dhaka on all fronts. During Sheikh Hasinas visit to India in January 2010,both sides agreed to resolve the many long-standing problems between the two countries.
Some of them relate to maritime territorial disputes and the question of resource exploitation in the Bay of Bengal and are likely to come up during Adm Verma’s talks.
Besides the bilateral dynamic with Bangladesh,Adm. Vermas trip underlines Indias more focused defence diplomacy in the region.
Cribbing about our unfriendly neighbours and complaining about the warm military ties between them and China,India in the past simply neglected security diplomacy in Southern Asia.
Delhi has now consciously chosen to step up military interaction with all our neighbours. The only exception is Pakistan,where the Generals have never shown any interest in a structured interaction between the armed forces of the two countries.
Pak Army Chiefs prefer to deal with Indian political leadership when are directly in charge of running the country and don the presidential mantle. When they hold the remote,the Pak Army leadership does not want to be drawn into any service-to-service engagement with its Indian counterparts.
Last year,Adm Verma visited Sri Lanka twice and hosted his Sri Lankan counterpart in India. The Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh and the Air Chief ACM Vasant Naik traveled to Colombo in January this year.
The Indian Air Chief traveled to Dhaka in January 2010 and had received his Bangla counterpart in 2009. The three service chiefs now regularly travel in the neighbourhood and host their counterparts.
This intensive military diplomacy is driven by the recognition of the need to build solid institutional links with the armed forces of our neighbouring countries. But Delhi has much work to do before it can match Chinas defence diplomacy in the Subcontinent.
Besides regular high level military exchanges,China has emerged as one of the main suppliers of arms to all our neighbours. India is yet to generate surplus weapons production and a policy for arms exports in the region.
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