(This was originally posted in The Hindu by Dinakar Peri)
Netherlands is interested in posting a Liaison Officer (LO) at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) for Maritime Domain Awareness and information sharing, said Commander of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Vice Adm. René Tas. He also stressed on the need for greater cooperation and interoperability between like-minded countries in tackling maritime threats.
“We could not participate in Malabar [naval exercises] because it didn’t fit in the schedule of the Strike Group. We are excited to hear about Malabar and get lessons learn from that as well,” Vice Adm. Tas said in a telephonic conversation with The Hindu when asked if they were interested in also joining the Malabar naval exercise. “The more we exercise, the more we can learn from each other. Nobody can win the fights against adversaries, extremism or terrorism alone. We need each other, we need to partner up more and more. Nations alone cannot fix the problem, nations together they can. So we are eager to learn from Malabar as well,” he added.
The second phase of the Quad Malabar exercise — comprising of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. — was held in the Bay of Bengal earlier this month. Vice Adm. Tas is in India coinciding with the visit of the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG), led by the British carrier Queen Elizabeth. TheNetherlands Frigate, HNLMS Evertsen, is also part of the CSG. The maiden India-UK joint tri-service exercise Konkan Shakti is scheduled in India from October 21 to 27. In the maritime component of the exercise, the harbour phase was held in Mumbai from October 21-23 and the sea phase began on Sunday.
On information sharing and the IFC-IOR, the visiting officer said some of the European countries have an LO in India but the Netherlands does not. “We will consider that and the EU should consider that… Back home I will talk to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that we can improve our cooperation by having a Liaison team, that could be Netherlands or it could be EU…,” Vice Adm. Tas said. Among European counties, France and U.K. have a LO at the IFC-IOR in addition to Australia, Japan, Singapore and U.S.
On the evolving bilateral maritime cooperation between India and the EU, Vice Adm. Tas said the Netherlands had a small Navy and have a ship in the region every couple of years. “We should use that to exercise with the Indian Navy,” he said, adding they are also participating in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.
Stating that the Netherlands has a Pacific policy which is aligned with the EU policy, Vice Adm. Tas said it is not very different from the Indian policy from a maritime perspective. Stating that they have a roadmap for the development of their Navy and are dealing with all kinds of threats that the rest of the world was facing, not just the Netherlands or the EU or NATO but all countries in the region — “like cyber crime, uncertain geopolitical developments, natural disasters, but also extremism and terrorism.” “Where we can, we will and shall work together with like-minded nations that have common interests like shared values like democracy and freedom of speech… Also economic interests, and we share similar economic interests. Free trade is important for all of us and for free trade we need free and open seas,” Vice Adm. Tas added.
For Ex Konkan Shakti, Indian Navy has deployed three indigenously built stealth guided missile destroyers, two stealth frigates and a tanker along with integral Sea King 42B, Kamov-31 and Chetak helicopters, MIG 29K fighter aircraft, Dornier and P8i maritime patrol aircraft and a submarine. The exercise will also see participation by IAF aircraft that include Jaguars, SU-30 MKI fighters, Airborne Early Warning Aircraft and mid-air refuelling aircraft. The land phase of the exercise is underway with the Indian and UK Army at Chaubatia in Uttarahand. The UK Army is being represented by officers and troops of the 1st Battalion of the Fusilier Regiment and Indian Army has deployed troops of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles.
Coinciding with the exercise, the First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, U.K. Navy Admiral Sir Tony Radakin was in India from October 22 to 24.