The naval contingent, including a guided missile destroyer, guided missile frigate, anti-submarine corvette, and guided missile corvette, will be deployed for two months on operational duties in the South China Sea and surrounding areas to “enhance military cooperation with friendly countries.”
The statement released by the Indian Navy does not explicitly cite China’s activity in the region, but does state that it is being done as part of the country’s ‘Act East’ policy. The Act East agenda has previously sought to bolster economic and diplomatic ties with nations that are concerned about China’s expanding fiscal and military strength, particularly in the South China Sea.
Alongside India’s operational deployment, its naval task force will join Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia in separate bilateral military exercises, as well as multilateral training with Japan, Australia, and the United States.
The South China Sea and surrounding waters have been the site of increasing tension between China, regional neighbors, and Western countries that are concerned Beijing is seeking to secure control of the region unlawfully. Beijing has countered this suggestion by arguing that its ‘nine-dash line’ grants it control over the South China Sea, reaffirming that it will “defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Towards the end of July, China condemned the United States for its maneuvers in the South China Sea, calling it the “biggest creator of security risks” in the area. Similarly, China blasted other Western nations last month for engaging in “extremely irresponsible” behavior and seeking to “deliberately provoke controversy” by deploying vessels and conducting military exercises in the region.