Washington, May 31 (IANS) The US military has renamed its Pacific Command to the US Indo-Pacific Command in a largely symbolic move signalling Indias growing importance to the Pentagon.
The Pacific Command has 375,000 civilian and military personnel monitoring the greater Pacific region, including India. The name change comes amid tensions with China, which has been expanding its military activity in the region.
“In recognition of the increasing connectivity of the Indian and Pacific Oceans today we rename the US Pacific Command to the US Indo-Pacific Command,” Defence Secretary James Mattis said at a change-of-command ceremony in Hawaii on Wednesday.
“It is our primary combatant command, it’s standing watch and intimately engaged with over half of the earth’s surface and its diverse populations, from Hollywood to Bollywood, from polar bears to penguins,” he said.
“Relationships with our Pacific and Indian Ocean allies and partners have proven critical to maintaining regional stability,” Mattis was cited as saying by the Hill magazine.
Admiral Phil Davidson took over the leadership of the US Pacific Command from outgoing commander Admiral Harry Harris at the ceremony. Harris was earlier nominated by President Donald Trump as the next US Ambassador to South Korea.
The change does not mean more personnel will be sent to the region, but instead recognises the increasing military importance of India as the the US works to assert regional dominance over China.
“We stand by our partners and support their sovereign decisions because all nations large and small are essential to the region if we are to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to peace,” Mattis said.
In 2016, the US and India strengthened their military ties by signing an agreement to use each other’s bases for repairs and resupply.
The Command has yet change its name on Twitter or its website.