NEW DELHI (Sputnik) — The Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) is holding its maiden International Maritime Search and Rescue Exercise (IMMSAREX) in November this year. While India will be participating as a member country, China's People's Liberation Army Navy has agreed to participate as an observer.
The exercise of the IONS, currently chaired by Bangladesh, will see the participation of ships and aircraft of countries of the Indian Ocean littorals and observer countries.
The participation of both India and China in the exercise intrigues many as Indian & Chinese forces have been involved in a stand-off at the Doklam plateau, a territory disputed between China and Bhutan. Moreover, the presence of Chinese warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean has always caused uneasiness in the Indian establishment.
Experts are of the opinion that this exercise does not necessarily imply an effort for confidence building between India and China.
"It is pertinent to understand that this is a multilateral exercise under the aegis of IONS. Indian Navy's participation in this exercise with PLA Navy, in my view, does not indicate the aspect of confidence building measure. Indian Navy in the past has exercised with PLA Navy in the multilateral exercise, for example, ADMM Plus HADR exercise in Indonesia and the Australian Navy's International Fleet Review. At present, Indian Navy is coordinating with other navies, including PLA Navy, in the anti piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden through SHADE (Shared Awareness and Deconfliction) mechanism, notwithstanding current standoff at the border. In my view, this participation in the IMMSAREX should not be seen as a confidence building measure," Cmdre. Abhay Kumar Singh, a military analyst at India's Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses told Sputnik.
The IONS is a multilateral maritime cooperation initiative aimed to promote cooperation among navies of the Indian Ocean littoral states. At present, the IONS has 23 Indian Ocean Region (IOR) littoral states' navies as members and 9 states as observers which include China.