With the Prime Minister’s visit to Indonesia, India and Indonesia have agreed to develop a naval port in Sabang, a strategic location at the entrance of Malacca Strait. India and Indonesia have signed 15 agreements and one of them includes defence cooperation.
The official statement of MEA includes maritime issue several times from ancient times to the recent times. MEA statement includes, the leaders welcome the adoption of the “Shared Vision on Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific between India and Indonesia” with a strong belief that the two countries could develop further cooperation in maritime sector which can be a force of immense stability in the region.
The location of the port is strategically important when China is expanding its maritime ports at a fast pace. India and Indonesia has also planned to develop maritime and economic infrastructure on their respective outer islands, Andaman and Sabang respectively.
Last month when Maritime Co-ordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan visited India, some key points were discussed. During those discussions, he highlighted that Sabang is suitable for civilian and military vessels. However, for now, India and Indonesia have denied any plans to militarize the ports, but they will be used to develop a strong maritime relationship between India and Indonesia.
The strategic intention behind the joint development of Sabang port is not clear, but still this comes as a welcome news when China is expanding its resources at a rapid speed. China’s intrusion in the south china sea led Indonesia to name their sea as Natuna Sea which is their exclusive economic zone. Sabang connects the Indian ocean to the Pacific ocean and also a point where China will be vulnerable if US decides to block China.
MEA joint statement of India and Indonesia also states that a MOU yet to be finalized on Maritime Security Cooperation between Badan Keamanan Laut and the Indian Coast Guard will institutionalize training cooperation, capacity building, regular working group, coordinated patrol and joint exercises.
With the inclusion of Sabang in the overseas port, India has four vital ports abroad now. The rest of them are:
Duqm, Oman- This port provides easy access to Red Sea and India got the military access of southern coast of Oman.
2. Assumption Islands, Seychelles: It is totally an infrastructure project. With India’s strategic interest, it can be a step ahead.
3. Chabahar Port- This port situated in Iran is very close to the Pakistan’s gwadar port which is under China. It links India to Europe and Central Asia.
China has reacted on the news with a warning to India. The state run, Global times mentions that China will not turn a blind eye to a certain military cooperation of India and Indonesia as they are heavily dependent on Malacca Strait.
An article said, “If India really seeks military access to the strategic island of Sabang, it might wrongfully entrap itself into a strategic competition with China and eventually burn its own fingers”. It also said that If India and Indonesia is getting into a military collaboration with financing a new infrastructure, China can take various counter measures and do whatever India tries to do in Indonesia.