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India signs maritime accord with Thailand

P. S. Suryanarayana

The vulnerable area of Andaman Sea to be covered

SINGAPORE: : India on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Thailand for joint maritime patrols to prevent piracy and arms smuggling.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash and his Thai counterpart Admiral Sampop Amrapala, signed the agreement in Bangkok.

In an interview to The Hindu , Admiral Prakash, who attended an international maritime event here before he left for Bangkok on Thursday, said the accord would help to ensure "the whole vulnerable area of the Andaman Sea is generally covered by joint patrols" with the relevant countries. India already entered into similar agreements with Indonesia and Sri Lanka. An understanding with Myanmar too could be reached in future.

One of New Delhi's main concerns was the suspected smuggling of arms across the Andaman Sea to India's north-eastern States and Sri Lanka.

Ties with Singapore

Admiral Prakash said a broader defence cooperation agreement would be discussed with Thailand. Singapore was perhaps among the first countries with which India developed "a close cooperation" in all three military wings. The interactions with Singapore "seems to be progressing on the right lines ... and the outlook is bright".

`Intrusion by China unlikely'

Admiral Prakash, who is Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, said "it seems unlikely" that some personnel of the People's Liberation Army of China would have intruded into Arunachal Pradesh, as reported in a section of the Indian media a few days ago.

He said he had "no knowledge" of the report. He drew attention, nonetheless, to the recent visit to India by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, and the guidelines and principles agreed upon for discussions on the border question.

As for confidence-building interactions in the military sphere, he hoped that the two "very basic naval exercises" India and China held could mark "the beginning of something more serious". No new exercises were on the cards.

On India's defence links with Japan, Admiral Prakash said, "Of late, a certain convergence of interests has emerged". As for Japan's "seaborne-energy needs", India "happens to sit astride the [relevant] sea lanes". In the event of "turbulence" along these lanes, "the Indian Navy would have a major role to play".

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