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China’s forays in Indian Ocean a matter of concern, US commander tells India

Warning India against increasing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean region, a top American military commander on Wednesday stressed on the need to sign two key agreements between India and the US for joint tracking.

world Updated: Jan 18, 2017 23:39 IST
Indian Ocean

China has in the past defended the movement of its submarines in the Indian Ocean as “legitimate” and in accordance with “international practices”.(AP file )

Warning India against increasing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean region, a top American military commander on Wednesday stressed on the need to sign two key agreements between India and the US for joint tracking.

Admiral Harry B Harris, who heads the US Pacific Command (PACOM), termed Chinese submarine forays into the Indian Ocean an “issue” and said signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) will help in joint tracking.

“India should be concerned about increasing Chinese influence,” he told a select group of journalists.

Harris also flayed China’s relationship with Pakistan and Bangladesh.

“I am not a CENTCOM guy but I think the relationship between China and Pakistan is of concern and I believe that Indian counterparts are also concerned. I believe that China’s relationship with Bangladesh is also of some concern,” he said.

Read: PLA submarines in Indian Ocean legitimate: China

The top American commander said both India and the US have come a long way in the last few years.

“Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) is a clear indicator of progress. There are other foundational agreements like COMCASA and Basic Exchange and the Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Information and Services Cooperation (BECA).

“These are important foundational agreements. If we get these agreements signed, I think we will be at great place. But I do not want to punish India in the COMCASA or BECA areas i.e. before India is ready to go,” he said.

Asked about the Indo-US cooperation in the Indian Ocean, Harris said, “In tangible terms, with the P8i aircraft, we will be able to do more interoperable activities”.

He said the aircraft provided the best capable anti-submarine platform.

Read: India keeps a close eye on Chinese ships in Indian Ocean: Navy chief

“While India has the P8i, we have the P8A, they are not completely interoperable because of different communication system. In order to really maximise the potential here in the Indian Ocean against those submarines (Chinese), we need to move this agreement forward,” the US commander said.

Noting that LEMOA was signed after talks of over a decade, he hoped that the two agreements will not take the same time period.

Talking about the US’s help to India in tracking of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean, Harris said, “We work closely with India. Malabar exercise helps us horn our ability of highly technical tracking of submarines. I think we are getting better together on our ability to track what china is doing in the Indian ocean.”

“Chinese submarines are clearly an issue and we know that they are operating through the region,” he added.

Read: China’s submarines in Indian Ocean worry Indian Navy