DPG Indo-Pacific Monitor

Indo Pacific Monitor

Date: March 31, 2024
Maritime order, towards India’s west and east, remained in turmoil during the month.  To the west, US and European operations to protect shipping in the Red Sea struggled to assure safety against Houthi strikes on merchant vessels.  Traffic volumes through the Red Sea and Suez Canal plummeted, with ships choosing to take the longer route around Africa.  MV Rubymar, a vessel that had been hit by an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile on February 24, sank on the morning of March 02.  Meanwhile, the Indian Navy carried out a landmark operation on March 16 to rescue MV Ruen from Somali pirates.

To India’s east, tensions flared in the South China Sea, with Chinese naval assets acting aggressively, using water cannon and collisions to stop Philippines’ resupply missions in the Second Thomas Shoal. Strong statements and warnings from the US, Japan and Australia did not have much impact.  Further north, in the East China Sea, China declared that there is no median line in the Taiwan Strait.  Meanwhile, USS John Finn carried out a Taiwan Strait transit on March 05. 

China unveiled a defence budget of about $ 231.67 billion on March 05.  The amount is more than the annual defence budgets of India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and India combined. The US on its part announced a Presidential Budget Request of $ 849.8 billion for FY 2025, substantially lower than the total of over $ 900.3 billion appropriated for FY 2024.

Japan’s ruling coalition agreed to revise Japan’s strict defence export guidelines to allow sales of the GCAP fighter being developed jointly with the UK and Italy, albeit with certain conditions.
Two Royal Navy auxiliaries began essential repairs at the L&T Shipyard at Kattupalli under a defence cooperation agreement signed between India and UK in January 2024. 

The Third India-US Tiger Triumph tri-service exercise was held on India’s eastern seaboard from March 18-31, 2024.

Warships from Russia, China and Iran came together for the third edition of Exercise Sea Security Belt in the Gulf of Oman from March 12-15, 2024. 

Australia identified BAE Systems UK and ASC Australia as the shipbuilding partners for its AUKUS submarines. The latter was also identified as the maintenance partner.  Australia and the UK also signed a revised defence and security cooperation agreement, envisaging a much greater UK presence in the Indo-Pacific.  This includes the deployment of a Carrier Strike Group to the region in 2025.

These and other developments are covered in this Indo-Pacific Monitor Vol. V, Issue 3.  To read, please see the PDF attached.