China’s growing military presence in the Indo-Pacific region was a major topic of discussion at Tuesday’s 13th Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs’ Conference (IPACC) of more than 30 countries with 20 Army Chiefs present, even though it was not directly mentioned in the opening ceremony. Participants in the conference expressed grave concerns about China’s muscle-flexing, which stretches from the South China and East China Seas to the land frontier with India. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the Indian Army Chief, and the US Army Chief all emphasised the need for greater collaboration to ensure a free, open, and secure region while respecting the territorial integrity of all nations.
In an obvious reference to China, Army Chief General Manoj Pande said that apart from maritime challenges, the Indo-Pacific also faced a wide range of security and humanitarian concerns on land, including artificially expanded islands to acquire real estate and establish military bases. “While efforts by countries are converging towards effecting a free and stable Indo-Pacific, yet we are witnessing manifestations of inter-state contestations and competitions.”
US Army Chief General Randy George also said, “This region is critically important to the US, which is why we are here and exercising more than anywhere else in the Pacific to build all of this”.
Both the Chiefs were addressing a press conference at the 13th Indo-Pacific Army Chiefs Conference (IPACC) that India is organising for the first time along with the United States. Describing the congregation, Gen Pande said the Indo-Pacific region is not merely a collection of nations but a web of interdependencies. Chief of Staff of US Army Gen George termed land power decisive and stressed the need to deepen unity and collective commitment.
Addressing the mega event, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh emphasised that the Indo-Pacific is no more a maritime construct but a full-fledged geo-strategic construct, and the region is facing a complex web of security challenges, including boundary disputes and piracy. “India’s efforts towards building robust military partnerships with friendly countries underscore its commitment to not only safeguard national interests but also address global challenges faced by all,” he added.
The 47th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS), and 9th Senior Enlisted Leaders Forum (SELF) are also being held alongside the three-day IPACC conference serving to unite the Chiefs of Armies and delegates from 30 countries. This significant event is taking place in New Delhi from September 25 to 27. The central theme of this forum is “Together for Peace: Upholding Peace and Stability in the Indo-Pacific Region.” During the conference, Army Chiefs and senior leaders from land forces, primarily representing the Indo-Pacific region, will have the opportunity to engage in discussions on security and contemporary challenges. The primary objective of this forum is to advance peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region by promoting mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship among the coastal nations.