China, Iran and Russia held their “CHIRU 2Q22” naval drills in the northern part of the Indian Ocean at the Gulf of Oman between 18 and 22 of January 2022. The drills included rescuing operations of hijacked ships and vessels and conducting tactical naval operations for saving military personnel or civilians from flaming vessels. The “CHIRU 2Q22” is the continuation of trilateral naval exercise of these three Eastern nations that started in December 2019, under the title of Marine Security Belt.
The military drills included Pacific Fleet’s Task Force of Russian Navy, 39th Escort Task Force of China’s People Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) and Iran’s Armed Forces’ Navy (NEDAJAH) as well as Naval forces of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The holding of joint military exercises by China, Iran, and Russia in a maritime region important for the international community, clearly reflects the efforts and reactions of several global developments. The Defense Ministry of China gave a statement to these naval drills, stating that these exercises were aimed at building “a maritime community with a shared future.”
Sustained Trilateral Exchanges
Iran’s goal after President Ebrahim Raisi was sworn into office was to go for the policy of “Look East”. The country even acquired permanent membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) last year. Tehran intends to counter the sanctions imposed by the United States, which has led to its inclusion in similar military drills. Relations have been cemented further by the $400 billion deal between China and Iran and official visits.
The collective measures were further justified by the efforts for “world peace”. Moreover, coming to the point on common grounds, this is a reaction to a joint threat to their existence and interests; one can understand this from an old saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Iran has been facing severe consequences in the form of sanctions since the previous President of the United States withdrew the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Similarly, China has been facing a challenge in the shape of the current American administration’s policy of containing China in the far East by establishing security partnerships like QUAD+ and AUKUS to deter China’s BRI ambitions. The fate of Russia is similar, as Russian demands regarding Ukraine are clear that its neighbors not be given NATO membership.
The large deployments by Russian forces near the Ukrainian border and maritime territories have already pushed the United States to use coercive diplomacy by strengthening NATO’s existence in the Russian neighborhood. The development in the Indian Ocean gives a reflection of the point that eastern stakeholders are working collectively to pivot the paradigm shift of the international order towards the East.
Formation of the Eastern Axis?
Tehran’s aims under the policy of Look East is not only limited to economic and political cooperation but also to get legitimacy from China and Russia by creating a neorealistic balance against the threat of the United States and its allies in the Middle East.
There have been a number of visits of China and Russia’s naval military officials to Iran, allowing Tehran to provide its ports and naval installations for activities like CHIRU-2Q22, which gives an indication that the maritime territory of Iran can be used for both commercial and military activities by Beijing and Moscow.
There is no doubt that Iran lies next to the Strait of Hormuz which validates its importance in international trade and China’s BRI. The launch of such exercises has also been instigated as a reaction to “neoconservative” designs of the United States. The conduct of such military drills and the rise of trilateral partnership is to negate the efforts and narrative of the West led by the United States that has been built by pro-American academicians and politicians created against these states.
The point of the CHIRU naval exercise is simple. Russia, China and Iran along with their allies like Belarus and Venezuela do not want to serve the interests of American politicians and capitalists in the broader spectrum of global power politics. The joint military drills and security cooperation amongst China, Iran and Russia can give a pathway for the Eastern Axis.
However, the aims of such possible partnerships will not purely be dependent on the basis of imperialist and neocolonialist designs. Instead, these states must strengthen their national sovereignties and regional security spectrums against any possible international intervention from the West.
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