Implications of a joint naval drill - GulfToday

Implications of a joint naval drill


It is significant that Russia is participating in the joint naval drill at a time when Moscow is engaged in a full-scale war with Ukraine.

The joint naval drill of Iran, China, Russia and Oman from Wednesday to Sunday looks like an unintended riposte to the nuclear-powered submarine deal between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States that was announced on Monday. The joint naval drill had been carried out earlier too, and countries which have no military alliances with each other conduct military games exercises as part of building cooperation and goodwill.

But it is hard to deny some of the significant geo-political facts in the naval drill. Last Friday, China mediated an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing to restore diplomatic relations which were broken in 2016. And the joint statement issued in Beijing acknowledged the role played by Iraq and Oman by hosting earlier rounds of negotiations between Riyadh and Tehran. So three of them, China, Iran and Oman are now part of the joint naval drill. And it is a known fact that China and Iran have close diplomatic, economic relations with each other.

And of these four, two of them — Russia and Iran — are clearly in the anti-United States camp, while there is an undeclared economic and diplomatic tussle between China and the United States.  That is why the statement of a White House official that the US did not see anything hostile in the joint naval drill, and that this is something that all countries do. But he has however said that America will keep a watch over the naval drill. The Americans may not be worried but they understand the strategic implications of the China-Russia-Iran partnership. The Americans are pressurising China from giving military aid to Russia in the war in Ukraine, though the US, UK, and the European countries have been extending military aid to Ukraine.

The West is of the firm belief that the war in Ukraine is an unprovoked act of aggression, and all that the West is doing is to help Ukraine defend itself. China too voiced concern over the sovereignty of Ukraine, but Beijing has refused to condemn Russia.

This is the position that has been adopted by the Gulf Arab states along with other Asian countries like India.

There was a spark of controversy when Iran was accused of exporting military drones to Russia which Moscow had used against civilian targets. Tehran clarified that the drones were exported to Russia long before the war in Ukraine. But lran has maintained a tense neutrality in the war in Ukraine.

It is significant that Russia is participating in the joint naval drill at a time when Moscow is engaged in a full-scale war with Ukraine.

It is true that Russia is mainly fighting a land war with Ukraine, though its naval fleet in the Black Sea is keeping a close watch on Ukrainian ports and the ships that are carrying Ukrainian wheat to West Asia and Africa through a deal facilitated by Turkey and the United Nations last year and which will expire at the end of March and attempts are being made to extend the arrangement. Russia then is sending out its own message to the West about its friends — China and Iran, and that it is not isolated as it is in Europe.

As noted earlier, joint naval drills are not seen as a challenge to the security concerns of the West. China has a military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, and China has legitimate stakes in the region because of the threat posed by the pirates off the coast of Somalia. There is a recognition of the co-existence of navies of countries protecting their own shipping in troubled waters. No one country can claim to be patrolling and protecting the sea-lanes.  It would of course be naive to assume that the joint military exercises do not mean much in the geo-political tussle.

Both Russia and China are making a clear point that their strategic, which includes the economic, interests range beyond their own borders, and that America is not the only global player. It is a clear indication that Russia and China are positioning themselves in a way that the West and the Americans cannot hope to have a unilateral sway over world affairs.

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