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India expands strategic presence; to have defence attaches in more countries in Africa, Asia

NEW DELHI (PTI): For the first time, India will post defence attaches in several countries including Ethiopia, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Philippines, Armenia and Poland in line with its broader policy initiative to expand strategic ties with key regions, a move that comes amid renewed geopolitical rivalries.

New Delhi is also appointing a new defence attache to the tiny African nation of Djibouti that serves as a major maritime gateway around the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and is considered as a prized location for military bases, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The new defence attache in Djibouti will be the second one to hold the post in the island nation.

It is also learnt that New Delhi is planning to rationalise the strength of its teams of military officials in its embassy in Moscow and high commission in London.

A few of the defence attaches posted in these two countries are set to be deployed elsewhere as part of the rationalisation process that factored in various aspects of New Delhi's foreign policy priorities and optimum use of manpower.

The decision to appoint defence attaches in African countries of Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ivory Coast is in sync with New Delhi's priority to expand its strategic engagement with the African continent, one of the people cited above said.

Several African countries have already expressed keen interest in procuring Indian military platforms, equipment and hardware.

In the last few years, India has been positioning itself as a leading voice, flagging concerns, challenges and aspirations of the Global South or the developing nations, especially the African continent.

India's ties with the African continent have witnessed a major uptick amid China's persistent efforts to expand its influence in the African countries.

The induction of the 55-nation African Union (AU) as a permanent member of the G20 was seen as major milestones of India's presidency of the grouping of the world's 20 big economies in 2023.

India is also looking at further expanding defence ties with the Philippines against the backdrop of growing global concerns over China's increasing military assertiveness in the South China Sea.

The defence and strategic ties between India and the Philippines have been on an upswing in the last few years.

In January 2022, India sealed a USD 375 million deal with the Philippines for supplying three batteries of BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile system.

The supplies of the missiles to the Southeast Asian country are set to begin soon, one of the people cited above said.

The decision to appoint a defence attache in Armenia comes as the country in the Caucasus region shows deep interest in enhancing its defence relations with India.

Last year, an arms deal to supply Indian military hardware including multi-barrel rocket launchers to Armenia was firmed up.

The deal came amid the Armenia-Azerbaijan clash over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

India's decision to appoint a defence attache to Poland, which is a member of the European Union, is also being considered significant. It is reflective of the desire to expand two-way defence ties, the people cited above said.

Last year, the European Union (EU) posted a military attache to its mission in India for the first time.

A total of 16 defence attaches from the Indian Army, the Navy and the Indian Air Force will shortly assume their new positions, the people cited above said.

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