India and the United States have held “informal discussions” on conducting joint naval patrols, according to a United States Defense official, but no decisions have been taken yet.
But the official said the South China Sea did not figure in those discussion contrary to a report published on Wednesday, that even said the two countries planned to start those patrols within the year.
“I can confirm that some informal discussions on joint patrols in general have occurred,” a Defense official told HT at first in response to a request for comments to the report by Reuters.
The official got back later in the day to add, “We are not aware of any discussions that included the SCS (South China Sea) as a proposed area for Joint patrols.”
Reuters reported that joint naval patrols being discussed could include the South China Sea, which is likely to anger China given its claim over most of the waterway.
It added that the two countries were hoping to launch the joint patrol within the year, likely in the Indian Ocean where India is major player as well as in the South China Sea.
Sources in the Indian defence ministry told HT that the report was “highly speculative”.
US department of Defense spokesman Commander Bill Urban said in a statement: “The United States and India continue to explore ways to deepen our defence cooperation, including in the area of maritime security. The US Department of Defense and the India Ministry of Defence prioritized this area of cooperation in the “Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship” signed by Secretary Carter and Minister Parrikar in June 2015. We continue to work with our Indian counterparts on how and where to expand engagement in this area.”
He added: “On the matter of joint patrols, no decisions have been made and we do not have any additional details to provide at this time.”
An Indian navy spokesman told Reuters Indian navy has never carried out joint patrols with other countries, and there was no change in its policy of only joining UN-led operations abroad.
That’s why India chose to conduct anti-piracy operations on its own, the spokesman told the new agency, and did not join a multi-nation effort.