The chief of army staff (COAS) General M M Naravane recently left for Bangladesh .A five day visit , he will meet Bangladesh’s three service chiefs with other bilateral interactions . In one of many unprecedented moves, this will be the 6th visit by COAS during the pandemic . Previously, Myanmar , Nepal ,UAE, Saudi Arabia & South Korea were visited by Gen. M. M. Naravane. These visits are the evidence of India’s move for diversification of international diplomacy. The “military diplomacy” further reflects the all out effort by the Indian government to strengthen ties with other nations. Through such innovations, India is hoping to challenge the assertiveness of Beijing and take advantage of the blunders of the belligerent neighbor in the west of India. Let’s try and understand the implications of military diplomacy adopted by India.
The visits to Nepal ,South Korea and Myanmar were to rejuvenate already strong ties. While, at the time Kathmandu & New Delhi were facing troubles over boarder disputes (Kalapani), COAS ‘ visit helped smoothen the friction. Additionally, offering of ,COVID related , help further rekindled the warm relations both nation has always realized . Meeting with Myanmar’s counterpart strengthened the already strong defence ties. India also gifted a kilo class submarine ,INS Sindhuvir, to the Myanmar’s navy to bolster defence cooperation’s.
Coming to South Korea, the comprehensive and extensive relationship is evident. The K9 Vajra-T guns in the army’s inventory represent the collaboration between private sector defence major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and South Korea’s Hanwha Techwin (HTW). In April 2017, the two firms signed a $720-million contract for the Indian Army’s artillery gun program. L&T has assembled the guns at a facility at Talegaon near Pune in Maharashtra. All of these feature New Delhi’s commitment to not just maintain old relationships but strengthen it even in tested times of COVID.
The other visits of COAS to Gulf nations of UAE & Saudi Arabia were more strategic. In the past few years, India has focused on boosting security and defence ties with gulf nations (with various exercises and drills ) . The push has surfaced to strengthen ties in just more than one avenue of oil. For Saudi Arabia & UAE the relationship will foster a much pursued diversification of economic ties. Saudi Arabia and UAE are interested in investing economically in India. At the same time, the two countries, among the largest importers of military hardware in the world, can emerge as market for Indian weapons.
The visits has also helped pivot both the nations , especially Saudi Arabia, from Pakistan towards India. At the time Pakistan and Saudi Arabia weren’t as affable as before. Also, with improvement of ties between Gulf nations & Israel , India propagates itself as the best option in that direction. India further offers Gulf States both access to defence technology & technical expertise.
The current visit of COAS to Bangladesh is of prime importance. It comes at the backdrop of PM Modi’s Bangladesh tour. During prime minister’s visit numerous MUO’s were signed in various fields. The COAS’ visit will further act as a catalyst for closer coordination & cooperation between the countries on a host of strategic issues .Until now , Indian military hasn’t postured in an advance manner, let alone in diplomatic fashion. Thus, the change in tack is unprecedented. From countering belligerent neighbors to deepening ties with friends, both old and new, the refreshing “military diplomacy” may prove to be special.