India and the Philippines are poised to establish a dialogue centred on maritime affairs, a significant stride forward in their bilateral relationship aimed at enhancing maritime collaboration. Shambhu Kumaran, the Indian Ambassador to the Philippines, emphasized the pivotal role of maritime cooperation, recognizing the mutual dependence on the oceanic resources by both economies.

Ambassador Kumaran stated in an interview with the Philippines media, “We have reached an agreement to create a maritime affairs dialogue, which will also include a track two element.” He highlighted the comprehensive nature of their engagement. He also pointed out that both nations are presently working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to augment maritime cooperation, particularly with the Coast Guards. There is an expectation that the Commander of the Philippine Coast Guard will visit India soon to formalize this MOU.

“We’ve previously had visits from Indian coast guard vessels,” he mentioned, alluding to prior interactions. Ambassador Kumaran elaborated on the momentum in this area, mentioning that the Philippines had sent coast guard officials to India for training programs the previous year. A more extensive interaction between the coast guards of the two countries was being pursued. He further revealed, “We are also offering some equipment from the Indian defense establishment for consideration by the Philippines Coast Guard,” underscoring India’s commitment to enhancing the maritime capabilities of its partner country.

Maritime cooperation between India and the Philippines encompasses naval engagements and the exchange of white shipping information, aimed at bolstering maritime domain awareness and promoting the sharing of information. Ambassador Kumaran emphasized the paramount importance of maritime security to both nations. He expounded on the broader implications of their collaboration, addressing pressing issues such as climate change, ocean health, and resource management, which are shared challenges.

Turning to the impending delivery of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, Ambassador Kumaran reiterated the significance of the accord. “We did indeed sign that groundbreaking agreement,” he affirmed, highlighting the substantial decision that mirrors the growing trust between the two nations. He reassured, “Deliveries are on track to begin in 2023,” underscoring the dedication to timely implementation. The Philippines is set to become the first foreign recipient of the missile from India.

Ambassador Kumaran shared insights into India’s stance on the South China Sea Arbitration Award. He expressed, “We firmly supported the necessity for this award to be honored,” underscoring the importance of adhering to international agreements for regional stability. Without specifying any country, he added, “However, we also believe there is a larger issue concerning the conduct of states, particularly larger ones, and how their actions should contribute to stability rather than detract from it.”

Pointing out the blossoming partnership between India and the Philippines, Ambassador Kumaran cited their shared democratic values, youthful populations, and internationalist outlook as driving forces. He remarked, “The renewed dynamism in the relationship is quite refreshing,” highlighting the current phase of their collaboration.