Reports indicate India and Philippines strengthening defense alliance against China

 April 7, 2023

The Philippines, a longstanding ally of the United States in Southeast Asia, is reportedly strengthening its economic and military ties with India in a cooperative effort to guard against the aggression and encroachment of the communist Chinese regime, according to Breitbart.

The move could be interpreted by some as a rebuke of President Joe Biden's foreign policies and declining faith in the assurances and capabilities of the U.S. to help defend the Philippines and others in the broader Southeast Asian region from China's increasingly militaristic and threatening expansionism.

India and Philippines strengthen defense ties

The Philippine Star reported Tuesday the Philippines and India are on the verge of reaching an agreement to permanently station an Indian defense envoy in the capital city of Manila as part of a strengthening of the two nation's Joint Defense Cooperation Committee, which just held its fourth major meeting last month.

That most recent meeting concluded with an agreement between the governments in Manila and New Delhi to "enhance collaboration when it comes to maritime security and proposed to look into working together for cyber security, military medicine, joint training, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, as well as space security projects."

Also discussed were aspects of the Philippines-India Defense Engagement Plan for the next couple of years as well as "best practices on their respective defense indigenization or self-reliant defense posture program, and updates on procurements and acquisitions," per a spokesperson from the Philippine's Department of National Defense.

India looking for buyers for new cruise missile system

The Philippine Star further noted that Manila and New Delhi had reached an agreement in January 2022 on a $375 million contract for an advanced anti-ship missile system for the Philippine Navy built by Indian defense company BrahMos Aerospace.

The same day as that report, the South China Morning Post reported that India is actively working to convince more of its Southeast Asian neighbors to purchase the BrahMos missile systems following the $375 million deal with the Philippines as well as a $200 million deal with Indonesia, with a potential deal with Vietnam reportedly in the works.

Per Breitbart, the BrahMos missile system is a medium-range supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from batteries based on land, ships, and submarines, and is obviously intended to serve as a deterrent against Chinese expansion in the region.

The SCMP noted that aside from constraining China, India is also seeking to bolster its own defense industry and self-reliance, develop other advanced weapons systems, as well as to provide its neighbors with weapons procurement options other than China, the U.S., and Russia.

India's efforts to expand influence in region

Breitbart noted that India's Economic Times reported last year that the BrahMos missile systems deal represented a "transformational moment in India-Philippines ties" that could potentially lead to "far deeper military-to-military engagements" -- such as what was just reported this week by the Philippine Star.

Indeed, the PhilStar report made mention of how the deepening military ties between India and the Philippines were likely part of India's decades-old "Act East" policy that is working to create and grow an Indian-led and supplied regional cooperative pact that would include cultural, diplomatic, economic, and strategic ties between member nations.

First launched at the conclusion of the Cold War in 1991 as a way to cope with the massive geopolitical changes of the time, it has since been developed over the years to include more of a focus on countering China's own economic and militaristic efforts to expand its influence in the region.

U.S. influence declining under Biden?

To be sure, both India and the Philippines are still considered to be allies and friends of the U.S., and that is unlikely to change substantially in the near term.

That said, these and other developments suggest that neither country fully trusts the promises of the Biden administration, particularly with respect to confronting Chinese aggression, nor do others in the region, and are now turning more to each other than the U.S. for such assurances of safety and prosperity.

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