India and Thailand began coordinated patrols on Friday with the aim of reinforcing maritime links between the two countries and keeping a vital section of the Indian Ocean securely open for international trade, the Indian Navy said in a statement.

The two navies have been undertaking coordinated patrols bi-annually since 2005 along their International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

The Indian Navy has sent its INS Karmuk, an indigenously built missile corvette for the three day patrols while Thailand has deployed His Majesty’s Thailand Ship (HTMS) Tayanchon, a Khamrosin Class Anti-submarine Patrol Craft, the statement said.

Maritime Patrol Aircraft from both navies have also been deployed for the patrol exercise, it said.

“CORPAT (coordinated patrol) builds up understanding and interoperability between navies and facilitates institution of measures to prevent and suppress unlawful activities like Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) fishing, drug trafficking, maritime terrorism, armed robbery and piracy,” the Indian Navy said. 

The IUU could be seen as a reference to Chinese vessels in the region that engage in illegal fishing operations. The Indian Navy has in recent years focused on increasing its patrols – through port calls, rendering humanitarian and disaster relief efforts and joint activities with partner countries — in the Indian Ocean region that it sees as its sphere of influence. 

India has also often called for unhindered use of global commons like sea lanes — a push back against Chinese efforts to dominate the waters of the South China Sea. Beijing claims almost all of the waterway through which several trillions of dollars worth of global trade passes annually — as its territorial waters.

“It further helps enhance the operational synergy by exchange of information for prevention of smuggling, illegal immigration and for conduct of search and rescue (SAR) operations at sea,” it said.

“As part of Government of India’s vision of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region), the Indian Navy has been proactively engaging with the countries in the Indian Ocean Region towards enhancing regional maritime security. This has been through bilateral and multilateral exercises, Coordinated Patrols, Joint EEZ Surveillance, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. The Indian Navy and Royal Thai Navy have especially enjoyed a close and friendly relationship covering a wide spectrum of activities and interactions, which have strengthened over the years,” the Navy statement added.

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