The first maritime naval passing exercise (PASSEX) for some years between the Indian Navy and the EU NAVFOR Atalanta was held in Oct 2017. (Pic) PASSEX between US & Japanese Navies

India and EU held military to military dialogue this week to expand maritime security partnership in the Indian Ocean Region, weeks after EU released its India strategy paper that seeks to upgrade military partnership in the backdrop of Chinese PLA increasing global footprints.

From 22 to 24 January, a delegation of European Union military representatives visited Indian authorities in Mumbai and New Delhi to highlight the EU's role in fighting piracy and promoting maritime security in the Indian Ocean through its operation EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta.

This visit took place on the occasion of the Port Call of the French destroyer Cassard in Mumbai on 24 January, in the framework of France's bilateral cooperation with India. Underlining the longstanding support of French forces to EU NAVFOR since its launch in 2008, the destroyer hosted the EU Delegation on board prior to returning to sea, where it will provide associated support to EU NAVFOR later this month.

EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta has been deployed in the western Indian Ocean since 2008 as part of the international effort to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. Through the Operation, the EU contributes to international security by upholding the free flow of trade transiting the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin. EU NAVFOR also provides protection to vessels of the UN’s World Food Programme, which delivers vital humanitarian aid to the population of Somalia. Working with the EU to enhance maritime security, the Indian Navy on 24-25 December 2018 conducted its very first escort of a World Food Programme vessel in support of Operation Atalanta, following a request by the Operation.

Part of a wider EU diplomatic initiative to highlight its activities in the Indian Ocean region, Major General Daniel Grammatico, Director of Operations, EU Military Staff, European External Action Service, and Rear Admiral Giuseppe Rapese, Deputy Operation Commander, EU NAVFOR held meetings with their Indian counterparts here and Mumbai. Major General Daniel Grammatico also visited the Indian Navy's Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), which is linked with the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa at the EU Operational HQ in Northwood, UK. The purpose of the meetings was to update the Indian authorities on EU's recent developments in the field of defence, including on crisis management missions and defence capabilities, and to discuss cooperation opportunities between the EU and India, especially in the light of the EU's India Strategy.

The EU’s recently-announced India Strategy seeks to further develop military-to-military relations with India, including between leaders of the Indian armed forces and EU military structures, as well as joint exercises and training.

India is an important partner for the EU in implementing its decision to strengthen security cooperation in and with Asia. The EU recognises the overall importance of Asian security to European and global security and stability, and promotes a coordinated approach to tackle the challenges common to Asia and Europe.

EU-India maritime security cooperation has gathered substantial pace in recent times:

  • The first maritime naval passing exercise (PASSEX) for some years between the Indian Navy and the EU NAVFOR Atalanta was held in October 2017. 
  • On 24-25 December 2018, the Indian warship Sunayna escorted a WFP vessel transporting 360 tons of food aid from Bossaaso to Berbera, northern Somalia.
  • The new Information Fusion Centre - Indian Ocean Region in New Delhi (IFC-IOR) has recently linked-up with the Maritime Security Centre - Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA) established by the EU NAVFOR Atalanta.