Burgeoning India-Philippines Ties: Stifling The Dragon

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

This age-old adage of geopolitics encapsulates modern diplomatic alignments. India-Philippines ties are one such brewing partnership. Over the years, India and the Philippines have been cosying up and upgrading their engagements through comprehensive dialogues. The germination of Indo-Philippines ties results from the confluence of their national interests and threats. India’s outreach to East Asian nations under its “Act East Policy,” an upgrade of the “Look East Policy,” coincides with the Philippines’s need to grow out of its traditional alignments. Apart from organic factors, China’s belligerence also acted as a catalyst for deepening collaboration between the two nations. The resolve to stand up against the hegemonic intentions of China has brought the two nations even closer. Here, we’ll dissect this budding partnership between India and the Philippines in light of common security challenges and emerging opportunities.

Also Read: Houthis Hooliganism: India Amidst Untested Waters.


Despite their great distances from one another—the Philippines is in East Asia, and India is in Southeast Asia—both countries have territorial conflicts with China. The difference is that India faces land disputes in the mountains, while the Philippines faces maritime disputes in the South China Sea. In essence, both of these disputes arise from the treacherous hegemonic designs of China. The modus operandi of China in its dispute with India and the Philippines is somewhat identical . Cooking up sham territorial assertions based on obscure historical preferences, followed by salami slicing, has been China’s consistent land grab policy vis-à-vis all its neighbours. Due to its tendency to cook up false territorial claims, it is joked around that China might as well come up with territorial claims over the moon.

Nine dash line

China’s spurious claim over the Indian territories of Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh is identical to its claim over the South China Sea. China claims the entire South China Sea as its “exclusive” territory. These erroneous claims find their basis in China’s alleged “Nine-Dash Line.”. It is a 2,000-kilometre-long line that runs from the Chinese mainland to within a few hundred kilometres of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. China’s claim to the waters and islands within the boundary is based on its self-made “historical maritime rights.” However, it has never elucidated the line coordinates or explained its existence. The real objective is to usurp 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas deposited under the South China Sea. Nine-Dash Line is just a facade China curated for its hegemonic design in the South China Sea and occupying territories of its neighbours. Typical Chinese imperialist behaviour indeed!


The Philippines faces territorial challenges primarily in the South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with China. The centres of dispute are the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal. China’s expansive claims, based on the “nine-dash line,” have led to tensions as the Philippines seeks to assert its sovereignty. The Spratly Islands are a group of more than 100 small islands, reefs, and atolls located in the South China Sea. Multiple countries, including China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, have territorial claims over different parts of the Spratlys. China, in particular, has asserted its claim aggressively based on the Nine-Dash Line. It had undertaken extensive island-building activities, constructing military facilities and airstrips on some of the islands. Through this military buildup, China restricts and intimidates other nations, including the Philippines, from exercising their rights and asserting their sovereignty over islands within its territory.

Artificial island in south china sea.

Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal, is a triangular-shaped reef located approximately 120 nautical miles off the coast of the Philippines. Both China and the Philippines claim Scarborough Shoal as part of their respective territories. In 2012, a standoff occurred between China and the Philippines when Chinese vessels prevented Filipino fishermen from accessing the area. This led to increased tension. The Philippines initiated arbitration proceedings under UNCLOS, resulting in the 2016 ruling that declared Scarborough Shoal to be traditional fishing grounds for Filipino fishermen and that China’s actions were unlawful. The ruling further reiterated that China’s claims based on the “nine-dash line” had no legal basis, and Scarborough Shoal fell within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). However, China rejected the ruling and maintained its presence in the area. Both the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal disputes are paragons of China’s expansionist mindset and its disregard for Philippine sovereignty.


India and the Philippines have both been the victims of China’s treachery and attack on their sovereignty. This makes their collaboration ever more pertinent in keeping a check on China’s expansionist designs in the region. India-Philippines synergy is a win-win collaboration for both nations. For India, this nexus provides it with an opportunity to encircle China in its backyard and keep it on its toes. This would also help India to balance out the China-Pakistan alliance brewing in its neighbourhood. For the Philippines, this partnership serves as a tool for capacity building and reducing its dependence on its traditional security partners, like the US. Since India is the only country that stood up and gave China a bloody nose in the head-on confrontation during the Galwan Clash and Doklam Crisis, it could guide the Philippines on how to tame the dragon.



  • In January 2022, India and the Philippines signed a contract to supply three batteries of BrahMos missiles to the Philippines, aimed at countering China’s influence in the South China Sea. The delivery of the first battery will begin in December 2024. This would help the Philippines build deterrence against Chinese naval assets intruding into its maritime territory.
  • On August 22, 2023, the Indian Coast Guard signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on enhanced maritime cooperation. This includes collaboration in the domains of maritime law enforcement (MLE), maritime search and rescue (M-SAR), and marine pollution response (MPR).
  • On December 13, 2023, India and the Philippines carried out a joint warfare exercise, the Maritime Partnership Exercise (MPX), between INS Kadmatt and BRP Ramon Alcaraz of the Philippine Navy in the South China Sea. This exercise sent warning signals to Beijing, which viewed this as a direct challenge to its hegemony in the region. Furthermore, naval drills between the two countries, it had disputes with, in its backyard that wasn’t a merry thought for China.
  • On July 12, 2023, India and the Philippines conducted their 8th Intelligence Exchange (INTELEX) meeting in New Delhi. This meeting was held to bolster joint military efforts on intelligence sharing and to facilitate intelligence exchange on security threats in the region.


The India-Philippines Partnership is sui generis and caters to their national interests. Furthering Delhi-Manila ties serves as a gateway for broadening the Indian-ASEAN relationship, which is consistent with India’s Act East Policy. This comes at a time when China has already significantly militarised the South China Sea and is altering the geography and balance of power in the region. India, too, has its own concerns regarding China’s consistent intrusions into its border in the northern region. Thus, it becomes a duty for all like-minded nations to curtail China’s expansionist endeavours through cooperation. India could play a major role in capacity-building for the ASEAN nations, and the Indo-Philippines BrahMos deal is just for starters. In return, India could get access to the South China Sea. In a nutshell, Indo-Philippines collaboration is going to be one defining partnership that’s going to shape India’s growing role in the Indo-Pacific region. 


Anmol Kaushik

Hi, I'm Anmol Kaushik, I'm currently pursuing Law (4th year) at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (GGSIPU). I'm a defence enthusiast and a keen geopolitical observer.

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