India in talks with 24 nations over maritime intelligence

India is in talks with 24 nations in the Indian Ocean region for sharing maritime intelligence information that would not only help New Delhi to strengthen its coastal security network but also provide better assessment of the security dynamic in the strategic South China Sea.

“National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is leading the dialogue with 24 nations,” Rear Admiral K K Pandey, assistant chief of naval staff in-charge of communications, space and network-centric operations, said here on Friday.

The negotiations are in the final stages, the officer said while briefing on the Navy’s new information management and analysis centre at Gurgaon that will be inaugurated by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday. Admiral Pandey refused to identify the number of countries with whom India was talking. But he admitted that nations on the east of Malacca Strait, too, were on the list.

While the exact nature of information that New Delhi seeks remains unknown, from a strategic perspective, India would like to know a lot more about the cargo movement in the South China Sea where vessels come transiting through one of the three straits–Malacca, Sunda and Lombok.

Almost 80 per cent of China’s energy cargo transits through Malacca. Former Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi last year stated that the Navy was prepared to protect the oil and Natural Gas Commission's oil exploration vessels in the disputed South China Sea in case of any unwanted intervention from China.

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