The German Navy plans to send its frigate Hamburg to the Indian Ocean in June to conduct port visits and partake in a regional, naval powwow on the French island of Réunion, the service announced last week.
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The air-defence vessel will begin its journey travelling up to the coast of Norway for interceptor test firings before making the long journey to the Indian Ocean to take part in a five-month training mission.
The German defence industry announced that the frigate will attend the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium in June followed by a trip to Australia as well as other port visits along its route.
The planned Hamburg deployment comes as Germany’s defence leaders test the waters for new engagements far from home. The sea service especially is seen by some as a potential harbinger for the type of out-of-area missions that the homeland defence-focused German military wants to expand to underwrite its geopolitical ambitions.
“The deployment is a step in the right direction,” said Sebastian Bruns, a German naval analyst affiliated with the University of Kiel in northern Germany. “German Navy Chief Vice Admiral Andreas Krause has for years argued that Germany needs a presence in the Indian Ocean.”
Bruns said the Navy has been operating in the Indian Ocean’s environs for some time, with mine clearing in the Arabian Gulf, counter-terrorism missions under the banner of Operation Enduring Freedom and the European Union’s counter-piracy operation, Atalanta, off the coast of Somalia.
“The Indian Ocean is a vibrant and strategically important maritime theatre,” he said. “German sea lines of communication run through the area, and the great powers are wrestling for influence.”
The Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, commonly known as IONS, is a forum to increase maritime co-operation among the littoral states of the Indian Ocean region. The forum helps to preserve peaceful relations between nations, and thus is critical to building an effective maritime security architecture in the Indian Ocean region and is also fundamental to our collective prosperity.
The inaugural IONS Seminar was held by the Indian Navy in 2008. Subsequent seminars and meetings of the ‘Conclave of Chiefs’ have been held at the commencement of each two-year IONS chairmanship: United Arab Emirates in 2010, South Africa in 2012, Australia in 2014 and Bangladesh in 2016. In April 2018, the IONS chairmanship rotated to Iran, and in 2020 to France.
IONS includes 23 nations that permanently hold territory that abuts or lies within the Indian Ocean, and nine observer nations.