Expanding its defence footprint in the Indo-Pacific, India has reached an understanding with the Philippines for exporting military equipment to the nation which has been at the receiving end of China’s expansionist plans in the South China Sea.
The deal which was concluded in Manila would enable a wider defence interface between India and the Philippines, ET has learnt.
The Philippines will be the first country to receive BrahMos missiles jointly developed by India and Russia. Earlier, New Delhi had extended a $100 million defence-related line of credit to Manila. The Philippines, a key US ally for decades, has been keen to diversify sources for defence hardware, sources familiar with the country’s defence sector told ET.
The Philippines had recently expressed concerns over China’s new coast guard law. It’s also a claimant in the South China Sea region and is the only country to approach the UN tribunal on the issue.
The arrangement was concluded following a foreign ministers-level meeting last November. At the meet, both sides aimed to implement the arrangement through “military training and education, capacity building, regular goodwill visits and procurement of defence equipment”. The two countries had also identified counter-terrorism as an area for security cooperation.
It may be recalled that New Delhi had donated $500,000 for rehabilitating Marawi city in Mindanao, which was under terrorists’ siege in 2017.
Defence ties between New Delhi and Manila have been growing steadily. In 2018, a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Defence and Logistics was signed. An MOU on Sharing of White Shipping Information—non-military/non-government shipping vessel information—was inked last year.
In 2018, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana met his then Indian counterpart Sitharaman, and visited the Indian Western Naval Command headquarters in Mumbai.
Later in 2019, the Philippine Navy joined its counterparts from India, the United States, and Japan for a group sail in the South China Sea. In February 2020, Indian Coast Guard Ship Shaunak made a port visit to Manila, and Indian naval vessels—guided missile frigate INS Sahyadri and anti-submarine corvette INS Kiltan— visited in October.
Last May, India assisted the Philippine Navy ship BRP Alcaraz after it caught fire. Early this year, the third meeting of the bilateral Joint Defence Cooperation Committee was held in Manila to discuss defence procurement, ET has learnt.
The Philippines, which plans to purchase Scorpene submarines from France, may also gather familiarity from the Indian Navy on Scorpenes.