Monday, October 25, 2021

India Tightens Defense Ties With South Korea As Army Chief Looks To Fast-Tracks Defense Deals Amid China Tensions

Indian Army chief is on a three-day visit to South Korea, his fifth foreign tour in the past two months, which shows India is laying greater stress on defense collaborations with like-minded countries amid the rising threat from China.

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General MM Naravane on Monday met Minister of National Defence Suh Wook and discussed issues of mutual interest and defense cooperation. During his five-day visit, the army chief will be meeting senior military and civilian leadership of the Republic of Korea to discuss avenues for enhancing India-Korea defense relations.

General Naravane visited the Korea Combat Training Centre in Inje County in Gangwon and the Agency for Defence Development (ADD) at Daejeon.

The defense collaboration between the two countries is reflected in K9 Vajra-T guns, which are a result of $720-million deal between India’s Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and South Korea’s Hanwha Techwin (HTW).

The K-9 Vajra-T, a tracked self-propelled howitzer, weighs 50 tons and can fire 47kg bombs at targets located as far as 43 km away. Other Korean firms have been pursuing a program to build minesweepers and ‘Biho’ self-propelled anti-aircraft defense system for the Indian military under the ‘Make In India’ initiative.

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New Delhi is looking to fast-track defense deals with like-minded countries as the border stand-off with China is unlikely to end anytime soon in the absence of any consensus. The two armies have already moved heavy artillery and other military equipment along the LAC, the de facto border between the two countries.

Earlier this month, Naravane had visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia to boost defense ties with the Gulf countries. The army chief had received a Guard of Honour at the headquarters of the UAE’s Land Forces during the visit.

The visit to the Gulf countries had come in the backdrop of the normalization of their ties with Israel, India’s foremost defense supplier.

In November, the Indian army chief had visited Nepal during which he was conferred upon the honorary rank of ‘General of the Nepali Army’ by President Bidya Devi Bhandari, as part of the decades-old tradition between the two countries.

In October, Naravane had flown to Myanmar along with India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. The visit was in line with India’s ‘Act East’ Policy to counter China’s growing influence in India’s neighborhood.


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