Engagement on high seas for first time: Indo-US navies in Indian Ocean
NEW DELHI: Indian and American navies will cooperate in the Indian Ocean for the first time when they join forces to coordinate relief for the victims of tidal waves, a report said on Friday.
The two countries, estranged during the Cold War but whose ties have warmed in recent years, will join Australia and Japan in a “core group” being created by Washington to coordinate recovery efforts. US Secretary of State Colin Powell told the news agency on Thursday that the United Nations had chief responsibility for coordinating relief in the Asian tsunami disaster, but the core group would be “complementary” to the world body’s efforts.
He said the United States sought to combine its military capability in the region with Japan’s financial resources and the assets of India and Australia to mount a rapid action to be expanded as other countries and groups joined in.
The Indian Express newspaper Friday noted that during the Cold War, the Indian navy was effectively ranged against the armada of the United States, Japan and Australia. In the coming weeks the South Asian region’s strongest naval force would be working with the US Navy, the world’s most powerful, for the first time in the Indian Ocean, it said.
During Operation Enduring Freedom to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, Indian ships had assisted the United States in providing security in the Malacca Straits, but that small operation had taken months to negotiate.
By contrast, the tsunami relief coalition has taken just days to tie up through a flurry of phone calls between Indian and US officials, including between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The United States has sent military transporters to the worst hit countries in the Indian Ocean while an aircraft carrier, helicopter carrier and military forces that could help in relief work are also on the way from bases in Asia.
India’s government, meanwhile, has said it would press on with plans to expand its facilities in the Andaman archipelago despite the Indian Air Force (IAF) base on Car Nicobar island being all but washed away in Sunday’s tsunami.
“Earlier the plan was to go in for expansion of the existing IAF facilities in the islands But now that the existing facilities have almost been wiped out, the plans will have to be redrafted,” Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Indian Express.
“But the expansion and augmentation of facilities will take place. The new runway, presently under construction, will also be built for taking heavier traffic.”
Car Nicobar island straddles access to the Malacca Straits, a key waterway through which much of the world’s crude oil passes. afp