The US is seeking to assist India in developing its naval and maritime infrastructure to create an Indo-Pacific regional hub for ship repair and maintenance, following the creation of the India-US Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) earlier this week.
Launched on 21 June against the backdrop India Prime Minister Modi’s state visit to the US, the US Department of Defense (DoD) stated that INDUS-X would serve to “vitalise” defence industrial cooperation between the two countries.
Speaking to reporters during a 22 June DoD briefing, a spokesperson stated that the strengthening defence ties between the US and India was part of a “wide-ranging strategic partnership” in which military and security cooperation would become “central to our strategic relationship”.
One aspect of this would be the creation of naval ship repair and maintenance hubs in India, which would be able to be used by US and other allies.
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“[The] aim here is to make India a logistics hub for US and other partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” the DoD spokesperson said.
Adding another element to US regional support network
Far from being short of maintenance facilities in the region, the US Navy can call up on a number of allies and partners in the Indian Ocean and Pacific for ship repair and maintenance.
In the Indian Ocean region, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, based at the US Navy Support Activity at Mina Salman in Bahrain, can utilise sites in the Kingdom or its Gulf neighbours for ship maintenance and repair. US Navy warships have previously used Jebel Ali in the UAE for mid-deployment voyage repairs.
Nearby Oman has also invested heavily in maritime drydock facilities at Duqm, on the Indian Ocean coast, which is able to accommodate commercial tankers far larger than the biggest US Navy warships, the Gerald Ford-class aircraft carriers.
The UK currently operates a land and naval domain logistics hub at Duqm drydock and has utilised the site’s facilities to conduct ship repairs and maintenance. In 2021 the forward deployed Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose completed an overhaul at the site.
In the Pacific region, the US Seventh Fleet, based at Yokosuka, Japan, can utilise local ship repair and maintenance facilities.
Elsewhere, the US Navy forward deploys four Littoral Combat Ships at Changi Naval Base in Singapore, where it also operates naval facilities to support its maritime assets.
In 2023, the US Navy also returned to Subic Bay in the Philippines after a multi-year hiatus following diplomatic issues between the US Government and its one-time colony.
Given this extensive network of naval maintenance and support facilities in the Indo-Pacific region, the addition of India will serve to bring additional capacity to US and allied maritime efforts, while also denying China from gaining its own footholds in the strategically located country.
Indeed, China’s own naval presence at Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, Gwadar in Pakistan, and Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, which in 2017 fell into China’s hand with the award of a 99-year lease following Colombo’s failure to repay Chinese loans, is likely a key influence in US efforts to secure access to Indian naval infrastructure.