India's radars in Maldives to track China's warships

India's radars in Maldives to track China's warships

Maldives President Solih and India's PM Modi shake hands ahead of their meeting in New Delhi in this dated file photo. (December 17, 2018) Reuters.

India is set to get more eyes to keep a watch on the warships of China in Indian Ocean region with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating on Saturday a new network of radar systems, which New Delhi recently installed in the islands of Maldives.

Modi will visit Maldives on Saturday and Sunday. He and Maldives' President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will remotely inaugurate the Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems installed recently in the islands of the Indian Ocean archipelago. They will also jointly inaugurate the Composite Training Center, which India helped Maldives build for its National Defence Forces, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in New Delhi.

Prime Minister's visit to Maldives during the weekend is going to be his first after he took over the top office in New Delhi for the second consecutive term on May 30. He will also visit Sri Lanka before returning to New Delhi on Sunday.

New Delhi of late set up 10 Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems in the islands of Maldives— all built by state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited based in Bengaluru.

The network of radars is linked a Central Control Station at the Maldives Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Villingili island near the national capital Male.

The radar systems New Delhi helped Male set up in the islands are intended to help the Indian Ocean archipelago safeguard “its sovereignty in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),” said Gokhale, while briefing journalists ahead of Prime Minister's visit to Male.

Sources, however, told the DH on Friday that the network of radar systems in Maldives would also prove to be a strategic asset for India and help Indian Navy to detect and respond to any threat to its national security and sovereignty.

The Indian Navy last year spotted a Type O39A Yuan class submarine of People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China in Indian Ocean. This was the first time a Chinese PLA Navy submarine was detected in Indian Ocean after the June-August 2017 military stand-off between India and China in Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan. The PLA Navy had 14 warships and as many as seven submarines in Indian Ocean during the 72-day-long stand-off.

The PLA Navy started deploying warships in Indian Ocean in 2013, professedly to support anti-piracy operations in Gulf of Aden.

New Delhi has also been worried over the “String of Pearls” strategic assets China is building around India in Indian Ocean region.

New Delhi's project to set up radar systems in Maldives had been stalled by the archipelago's former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who had pursued a policy that had resulted in a drift in the Indian Ocean nation's relations with India and led it into a tighter embrace with China. The project regained momentum after Solih succeeded Gayoom in November.

India is also building similar networks of Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems in other Indian Ocean nations like Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.

Modi and Solih will on Saturday also witness signing of a White Shipping Agreement— a pact, which will set up a framework for exchange of advance and real-time information between navies and coast guards of India and Maldives about identity and movement of commercial non-military merchant vessels sailing in the Indian Ocean region which could also prove to be a threat to its EEZ resources as well as its national security.

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