An Indian warship, the guided-missile stealth frigate INS Shivalik, is in the South China Sea on what is being called a “good will mission” to Vietnam, where it will participate in naval drills. The operation may have more to do with sending a subtle signal to China, however, as the WSJ reports:
Indian navy spokesman D.K. Sharma said the visit, as well as maneuvers in the Pacific Ocean last month by India, the U.S. and Japan, is a “fine demonstration of the operational reach” of India’s armed forces.Worried about an increasingly assertive and stronger China, New Delhi has sought greater cooperation with Beijing’s rivals and has been bolstering its navy, which recently took delivery of its second aircraft carrier.But India, wary of provoking instability in the region and along its own disputed border with China, has generally moved cautiously and tried to avoid any appearance of working with the U.S. or others to contain China’s rise.
Under Modi, India has also been making a low-key effort to counter China’s increasing presence in countries along their shared border. Most recently, India promised to build an enormous hydroelectric plant in Nepal, in whose power industry China is heavily invested, just as Beijing announced plans to extend a Tibetan railway to the borders of Nepal, India, and Bhutan. Given Modi’s warm relations with Japan’s Prime Minister, it comes as little surprise to find Japan and India engaging in naval exercises together, as they did last month. But it looks like Modi is also befriending China’s smaller rivals—and not hesitating to balance Beijing, quietly but firmly, in Asia’s Game of Thrones.