India gathers navies in show of maritime might

India kicked off a major display of maritime might with ships from 50 navies.
India kicked off a major display of maritime might with ships from 50 navies.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India kicked off a major display of maritime might on Thursday (Feb 4), with ships from 50 navies converging on the country's east coast, as New Delhi seeks to boost its leadership in the region.

Ninety ships including from the US, French, British and Chinese navies are taking part in the international fleet review in the Bay of Bengal - a ceremonial inspection and parade of boats and crews.

Indian Navy chief Robin K. Dhowan, who is hosting the event, said the review would increase naval cooperation, with the "safety, stability and the security" of the oceans a "collective responsibility".

"What you see, all the ships there, is all about cooperation, it is how to interact with each other and how to work together to make the global commons safe and secure," Dhowan told the NDTV network.

India is working to show maritime leadership, after rival Beijing has asserted growing strategic influence in recent years in the Indian Ocean region, as its seeks to secure its trading routes.

"This is a forum that demonstrates India's willingness to be a leading power," analyst Samir Saran, from the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation thinktank, told AFP.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected on the weekend to inspect the ships taking part off the port of Visakhapatnam, only the second international review held by India and running over five days.

Modi has sought to reassert India's leadership role in its own backyard since taking office in May 2014, visiting neighbours including Sri Lanka, a midway point on one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

A string of foreign naval chiefs are expected to hold talks as part of the review. US chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson was among those expected to meet Indian security officials to deepen maritime cooperation, the Indian Navy said.