India seems to be making huge inroads in the Indo-pacific region. Indonesia has agreed to give India economic and military access to the Sabang port, as stated by an Indonesian minister.
Indonesia’s co-coordinating minister for maritime affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan disclosed this before an audience in Delhi that India is set to invest in the Sabang port and economic zone and will fund a hospital for the island. He further explained that the port’s 40 meter depth is good for all types of vessels including submarines. This will bring a huge boost to the maritime co-operation. It has been stated that the coast guards of two countries could also work together. Indonesia and India also held joint naval exercises in 2017, and now this significant development is expected to enhance maritime and naval co-operation between the two countries.
The port is strategically located in the region. It is expected to provide the Indian Navy with a resupply joint. According to an Indonesian official accompanying Pandjaitan stated that apart from development of the port, Indian naval vessels would be allowed to operate from the port under the verbal understanding between the two countries. The strategic location of the port on the region might help India to exercise dominance over the region. As stated by certain diplomats from both the nations, the strategic location of the port will also help in checking China’s naval assertiveness in the region.
As stated earlier, the island located on the westernmost point of Indonesia and less than 500 kilometers from the Malacca strait, through which almost half of India’s trade passes. It will also help India in strengthening India’s supply lines. The Malacca Strait is one of the few crucial narrow channels coming in way of commonly used global sea routes. The importance of this port lies in the fact that the narrow channels caters to high volume of oil transport. It is critical for global energy security due to the high value of oil transport catered by the region. At least 15 million bpd of oil flows through the Malacca strait from West Africa and West Asia. Therefore, easy access to the Sabang seaport will be a big boost for India. It will boost India’s commercial interests in the region. With Malacca strait being a major global trading zone especially in the oil sector, India will be able to expand its potential supply lines along the region.
This agreement with Indonesia must be taken as a major achievement under the Act East policy of the Modi government. Even though the agreement is in the shape of an oral agreement as of now, but then both countries are set to give it a concrete shape. An Indonesian official confirmed that a meeting would be held next week to find out the ways of concluding this agreement in an official manner.
The key takeaways for India from this agreement are going to enhance naval dominance owing to the fact that the seaport is located in a strategically crucial area and it will also give a huge boost to India’s trading interests, given that the Malacca Strait is one of the few narrow sea channels along widely used sea routes catering to global energy needs.