Indian government minister says defense ties with SE Asia not meant to counter China


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia : India’s growing defense ties with Southeast Asia are not meant to counter China, and New Delhi does not intend to forge a military alliance with any country in the region, the Indian defense minister said Sunday, according to AP.

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The defense links are part of India’s Look East policy to expand trade and other ties with the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Defense Minister A.K. Antony, who had just arrived in Malaysia a three-day visit, told The Associated Press.

India, a former ally of the former Soviet Union, had long kept univolved with Southeast Asia in its foreign and defense policy. But with India becoming a major economic power, New Delhi has established closer defense ties with the United States, as well as its allies in Asia.
Antony said India’s trading activity has expanded hugely in Southeast Asia over the past few years. Most of the trade _ including oil deliveries _ goes by sea, and maritime security is paramount for India and its neighbors, he said.

We are all interdependent. To us, the sea is really important. The Indian Ocean is very important, he said.

We feel there is immense potential for ASEAN countries and India to work together in many fields including defense, he said.

However, he rejected suggestions that India’s Look East policy was meant to counter its main rival China’s immense political, economic and strategic influence over the region.

We are not entering into any kind of military alliance with any country, said Antony, who was scheduled to meet with Malaysia’s Defense Minister Najib Razak and Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar on Monday. He leaves for India on Tuesday.

India’s Look East policy is nothing against China, he said, adding that New Delhi’s rapidly warming ties with Washington also are not «at the expense of any old friends.