In the current geo-political scenario, seafarers of the world, represented by their navies have taken a leading role in bringing nations together by steadily increasing cooperation at sea
Despite the geographical distance from India, for the first time countries from the LatAm region will be participating in the 2nd edition of the International Review this week.
During the IFR, the navies of the world will come together at Visakhapatnam to strengthen bridges of friendship, including for the first time navies from Columbia, Peru, Chile, Brazil who have confirmed their participation in the event and will be represented through either their Naval chiefs or senior level delegations, senior Naval officials say.
"We may be separated by geography, but we are certainly united through oceans. The visiting navies will also have the opportunity to display their professional skills as they sail together for exercises to increase mutual cooperation and interoperability, with the underlying theme of keeping the global commons safe and secure in the 21st century,” says the Indian the naval chief Admiral RK Dhowan.
The review which aims at assuring the country of the Indian Navy's preparedness, high morale and discipline, is being held after a gap of almost one-and-a-half decade. The first IFR was held in 2001 at Mumbai. “So far 24 foreign ships confirmed, 52 foreign navies confirmed participation in some form or the other (ships/CNO/Delegates ),” says official spokesperson of the Indian Navy Capt DK Sharma.
Nations which have confirmed participation include US, China, Canada, Russia, UK, Australia, France, South Africa, Japan and South Korea. Many other African, Asian and American nations too will be participating.
Sharing his views on the participation of countries from LatAm, Stephan Xavier Beltran Gomez, defence analyst at Colombian Center for Strategic Studies says, “The visit of delegations from Peru, Chile and Colombia to the IFR is basically to strengthen the existing relations between the nations of the Asia-Pacific blocks than an interest in military products from India, and that specifically talking about the naval forces because these three nations have almost three best shipyards that currently exist in the South American region: COTECMAR-Colombia; SIMA-Perú and ASMAR-Chile.”
At present, the Chilean Navy has 68 surface ships, with six on order. Among its fleet are eight frigates, seven missile boats, six amphibious warfare ships, 16 patrol boats, two research vessels, and an icebreaker. It also has four submarines. India, Chile and Brazil too operate `Scorpene’ submarines.
According to Gomez, “India is an exotic market in any area of business that may have a South American country, and is virtually unknown. However, Indian `Main Battle Tank `Arjun’ was once being considered for the cavalry of Colombia sought a MBT (project moment is frozen due to budgetary problems), or HAL’s Light Combat Aircraft ` Tejas’ was being looked at for the Colombian Air Force. It is likely that the delegation from the Colombian Navy will to take the opportunity to know the range of products that India has to offer.”
While the ships from LatAm countries may not have come to the Indian waters, Indian Navy has had an opportunity to participate in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014 in Hawaii for the first time which had 23 navies from Colombia, Chile, China, & Brunei.
Sharing his views about the participation of Naval delegations from the region, John Chuman, director, SITDEF, Peru, says, “There are lot of opportunities for Indian companies in Peru. The country is focusing on air defense system, radars, special forces, drug detectors, control borders, C4I, and communication systems. Since there will be a defence exhibition `Make In India’ on the sidelines, the delegates from the region will get a chance to see what India can offer and how can companies from the two sides collaborate.”
The South African and Indian navies have a close relationship, with both services being members of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) as well as being partners, together with Brazil, in the IBSAMAR series of biennial naval exercises that takes place along the South African coast.
The South American military market may be attractive by the fact that a lot of material existing in the armed forces of the countries of the region are used, obsolete or degradation in their capabilities, but that reality is inconsequential to the budgetary limitations of the nations.
Huma Siddiqui is senior correspondent of The Financial Express, India. She specialises in coverage on Latin America & Defence Issues