A P-8I submarine hunting aircraft of the Indian Navy is at the La Réunion Island in the southern Indian Ocean on a five-day mission to undertake coordinated surveillance with French Navy warships in the region.
It's not the first time that an Indian Navy P-8I has been deployed to the the Island of Réunion, an overseas department of France.
A P-8I aircraft of the Indian Navy participated in a joint patrol with France from the Réunion Island in 2020.
French Navy personnel were onboard the Indian Navy aircraft during the patrol in the southwest Indian Ocean.
Why this matters: “The P-8I aircraft will engage with French warships and undertake coordinated surveillance missions in area to enhance maritime safety and security in the Southern Indian Ocean, including the Mozambique Channel,” an Indian Navy spokesperson has said.
India’s maritime security strategy lists the south-west Indian Ocean, including the Mozambique Channel (used by shipping transiting the Cape of Good Hope) and the east coast of Africa, where China has been investing heavily, as one of the primary areas of interest.
India is building dual-use infrastructure (along with a 3,000 metre-long runway) on Mauritius' Agalega Island, located in the same region.
The infrastructure at Agalega will support India’s maritime assets, including P-8Is, in the western Indian Ocean, particularly waters close to the weastern coast of Africa, an increasingly important region where the Indian Navy’s engagements have been relatively limited.
India has access to military facilities of Japan, France and the United States — all three have bases in the western Indian Ocean — under the logistics exchange agreements it has signed with these countries.
The Indian Navy was the first international customer of the P-8 aircraft.
The Indian Navy commissioned its second squadron of P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft earlier this year.
Twelve of these aircraft are already in service with the Indian Navy, with the latest one delivered in February this year.
The navy, reports say, plans to have a total of 22 of these aircraft in the next few years to keep an eye on Chinese movements in the Indian Ocean region, most notably its submarines.
Over the last few years, India has also used the aircraft to track Chinese deployments along the Line of Actual Control amid the ongoing standoff in eastern Ladakh.
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