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India’s foreign minister will begin a visit to the Philippines

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India’s foreign minister will begin a visit to the Philippines

India’s foreign minister will begin a visit to the Philippines today. Photo: Economic Times

Indian Foreign Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will begin a three-day visit to the Philippines today.

The visit comes after the two countries signed a $375 million arms deal last month, providing Indian-made BrahMos medium-range cruise missiles to the Philippines.

As India’s largest-ever overseas defense deal, it is almost certainly aimed at containing China’s presence in the South China Sea—a presence that is disputed by the Philippines. Although the missiles are unlikely to trouble the state-of-the-art Chinese defensive batteries deployed on China’s man-made islands in the disputed sea, they still pose a credible threat to Chinese naval and quasi-naval fishing fleets. This will likely rile Beijing, potentially resulting in the reimposition of bans on Philippines banana and pineapple exports to China.

The deal signals India’s seriousness about its long-term presence in the region, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Act East” policy. Other potential customers include Vietnam and Indonesia, whilst the Philippines is keen to purchase the more advanced BrahMos II cruise missile. In the medium-term, the deal raises the stakes in the region. As the Philippines and other regional claimants modernize their weaponry, the risk of diplomatic incidents turning to open skirmishes increases.

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