In reflection of growing bilateral defence ties, the UK on Tuesday posted a liaison officer at Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre (IFC) that has emerged as a key hub of maritime security information relating to the Indian Ocean, a region witnessing increasing Chinese naval presence.
A very small group of India’s strategic partners have positioned their officials at the Gurgaon-based facility.
“The UK’s International Liaison Officer (ILO) has today joined the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR),” the British High Commission said.
The Indian Navy established the IFC-IOR in 2018 to effectively keep track of the shipping traffic as well as other critical developments in the region under a collaborative framework with like-minded countries.
The positioning of the officer at the centre comes ahead of a planned visit to India by the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, led by aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
“Lt Commander Stephen Smith will be based full-time at the Centre, working directly with the Indian armed forces and fellow liaison officers from partner nations to enhance maritime domain awareness
in the region,” the high commission said.
“He will be inducted in an official ceremony as the UK’s first ILO at the Centre, building on the UK and Indian prime ministers’ historic commitment to boost cooperation with the launch of the 2030 Roadmap in May,” it said.
Admiral Tony Radakin KCB ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff of the UK described it as a significant step towards maritime domain awareness by both India and Britain.
“Coming as a natural outgrowth of the strong partnership between the Royal Navy
and Indian Navy, this is a significant step up in our shared maritime domain awareness effort, and boldly underlines UK and Indian desires to work together in the Indian Ocean Region and wider Indo-Pacific,” he said.
Jan Thompson, Acting British High Commissioner to India, said: “The UK has committed to becoming the European country with the broadest, most integrated presence in the Indo-Pacific in support of trade, shared security and values.”
“I am delighted that we’ve taken another tangible step to enhance our joint capability to tackle shared challenges,” he added.
Commenting on the development, Gavin Thompson, Defence Adviser at the British High Commission, said the IFC-IOR is an excellent platform to enable closer engagement and ensure greater sharing of information on vessels of interest.
“The UK and Indian armed forces already enjoy high levels of interoperability, which will be on full display during the upcoming visit of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, led by one of our largest aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth.
“The appointment of the UK Liaison Officer forms part of our enhanced maritime partnership to bolster security in the Indian Ocean,” he said.
In February, Australia posted a liaison officer at the Information Fusion Centre.
The Indian Ocean, considered the backyard of the Indian Navy, is critical for India’s strategic interests. China has been making concerted efforts to increase its presence in the region.
Indian Navy has been ramping up its presence in the Indian Ocean to keep a hawk-eyed vigil over Chinese activities.