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Beijing breathes fire as India also converges on South China Sea

The South China Sea (SCS) and its nearby waters are getting crowded. The UK’s Queen Elizabeth battleship is already there. India’s armada of four warships has also reached. German frigate Bayern left its port for the SCS. Australian and Japanese navies are joining for the Malabar maritime exercise.

Beijing breathes fire as India also converges on South China Sea
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New Delhi

Not to speak of the US, whose base in the Philippines got a new lease of life. A considerable lot is going on in waters not far from peninsular India. Beijing is unhappy and angry To send out a message to the world, particularly the US, Beijing launched its own naval exercises in the disputed SCS on August 7. To emphasise its point effectively, it is holding its exercise in the contested waters around the Paracel islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam.

Eulogising the drills, on August 5, China’s State-owned Global Times said: “... it will hold a military exercise from Friday to Tuesday in the South China Sea, setting up a vast navigation restriction zone, some observers said resembles a drill conducted last year in which the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly conducted live-fire “aircraft carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missiles exercises”.

By holding its naval exercise in contested waters, China is not just sending a combative message to the US and allies but simultaneously sending an intimidatory one to its much smaller neighbours in South-East Asia.

The South China Morning Post says the US exercises which include large-scale naval and amphibious drills are the largest since 1981. The US makes it amply clear that the objectives are grand and it seeks to take on multiple enemies in different geographies in a coordinated manner.

What is in it for India? By deploying its naval task force to the region, New Delhi has announced that it is ready to take the battle to Chinese waters. The naval task force will stay for around two months--visiting South East Asian countries and importantly, holding the Malabar maritime exercises with the other three Quad countries--the US, Japan and Australia.

The Indian ships will also drop anchor at Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia.

For India, a nation proud to maintain strategic autonomy, to send its ships in China’s backyard shows strong disenchantment with Beijing.

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