New Delhi: India joined the US-backed Combined Military Forces-Bahrain (CMF-B) — a counterterrorism coalition aimed at protecting international waters — Tuesday as an associate member.
The announcement was made after US President Joe Biden met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the second in-person summit of the Quad — comprising India, the US, Japan and Australia.
India becomes the 35th member of the maritime partnership that also includes Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
The development comes a month after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced that India would join the CMF-B coalition, following the India-US 2+2.
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What is CMF-B?
Established in 2001 with only 12 members, the coalition — then called the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) — was formed as a coalition of regional and international like-minded partners to counter the threat of international terrorism and uphold the international rules-based order.
The United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) was tasked with leading the then CMF in 2001.
Today, the CMF-B is primarily tasked with ensuring stability and security across 3.2 million square miles of international waters by acting against illegal non-state actors operating in vital sea lines of communication. Its scope has expanded from just counterterrorism to counternarcotics, countersmuggling operations, and suppressing piracy.
The coalition is headquartered in Bahrain, along with the NAVCENT and the 5th fleet of the US.
Other Asian members include Pakistan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Singapore and Malaysia.
Participation in the CMF-B is voluntary — it’s mandated neither by a political agreement nor a military one.
So far, India has been conducting similar anti-piracy missions on its own.
“With India now joining this grouping, it will operate in coordination with the CMF-B members,” a defence source told ThePrint. “Currently, India has two ships deployed round the clock between the Gulf of Aden and the Persian Gulf for anti-piracy and anti-smuggling operations.”
The details of India’s membership have yet to be worked out, the sources said.
“These will be finalised in due course of time,” a source added. “The modalities will map out how many ships India will deploy and whether they will start by deploying personnel.”
CMF-B task forces
The work of the CMF-B is divided into four combined task forces — the CTF 150, CTF 151, CTF 152, and CTF 153.
The CTF 150 focuses on ensuring maritime security in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
Participating nations have included Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Command of CTF 150 generally rotates between nations on a four-monthly basis. It’s currently being commanded by the Pakistan Navy.
CTF 151 focuses on counterpiracy. The CTF 152 aims to ensure maritime security in the Arabian Gulf (also known as Persian Gulf) and is currently being commanded by the Kuwait Navy.
The CTF 153 — which was established in April 2022 — focuses on ensuring maritime security in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, and is currently being commanded by the US Navy.
Pakistan has held the most commanderships of the CTF 150 and CTF 151, at 12 and 9 times, respectively.
As an associate member, India will reportedly not get command of the task forces’ and will also have a limited say in planning operations.
Structurally, the CMF-B is commanded by a US Navy vice-admiral. The vice-admiral also serves as the commander of NAVCENT and the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
The deputy commander of the CMF-B is a commodore of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy.
(Edited By Uttara Ramaswamy)
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