India’s Navy Links Up With US Ally With Eye on China

Three Indian Navy warships arrived in the Philippines on Monday amid rising tensions in the contested South China Sea.

The guided-missile destroyer INS Delhi, fleet tanker INS Shakti, and anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kiltan pulled into Manila as part of the Indian Eastern Fleet’s operational deployment to Southeast Asia, which included port calls in Malaysia and Singapore.

The visit comes as both India and the Philippines face increasing maritime pressure from China. The Philippines and China are engaged in a territorial dispute over the South China Sea, while India contends with Chinese influence in its neighborhood and there are ongoing border tensions.

Rear Adm. Rajesh Dhankhar, the commander of the Indian flotilla, met with Vice Adm. Rolando Lizor, deputy commandant for operations for the Philippine Coast Guard, to discuss the regional security environment and ways to improve security ties, the Indian Navy said in a statement posted to social media.

Indian Navy Visits The Philippines
Guided-missile destroyer the INS Delhi arrives in Manila as part of a three-ship Indian Navy flotilla. China’s increasing military assertiveness has prompted India and the Philippines to shore up defense ties with other countries in…

Indian Navy

During their visit, Indian and Philippine defense personnel got together for professional discussions, cross-deck visits, cultural exchanges and events to boost people-to-people ties, including a friendly soccer game.

The arrival of the Indian warships follows the recent delivery of the first batch of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to the Manila, which has called the weapons a “game-changer.”

The transfer was part of a nearly $375 million deal signed two years ago, aimed at equipping the Philippine Marines with anti-ship variant of the missile.

“The two navies share strong bonds of friendship and have consistently participated in maritime partnership exercises at every available opportunity,” Rear Adm. Dhankhar said. “India and the Philippines share common interests in maintaining peace and order in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Newsweek reached out to the Indian Navy and the Chinese foreign ministry via written requests for comment.

China claims sovereignty over most of the energy-rich South China Sea, citing historical rights to reefs and other features. Although these claims were dismissed by an international arbitral tribunal in 2016, Chinese coast guard, paramilitary and fishing vessels continue to operate in the exclusive economic zones of the Philippines​​ and several other neighbors.

India’s involvement in the region is also seen as part of its broader “Act East” policy, which aims to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian nations. Sripathi Narayanan, a defense analyst in New Delhi, told the South China Morning Post that India’s relationships in the region have improved significantly since the launch of this policy​​.

As China continues to assert its maritime claims, regional players like India and the Philippines are undergoing ambitious military modernization programs and strengthening alliances with the U.S. and other partners​​.

India’s membership in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, alongside the United States, Japan and Australia, further underscores New Delhi’s aim to play a greater role in regional security.