With the border tensions between India and China growing, and the Indian Navy is on an operation alert in the Indian Ocean region. India and Russia will be holding a two days toned down bilateral naval exercise, `Indra 2020’. It will be in the Andaman Sea, which is close to the strategic Strait of Malacca from Sept 4-5.
“Though the bilateral exercise has been toned down due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, it will be structured to enhance interoperability, validating and standardising common operating protocols towards greater operational cohesiveness across the spectrum of the maritime threat from the strategic to the non-traditional,” Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Indian Navy Veteran & Vice President Indian Maritime Foundation told Financial Express Online.
What to expect on Sept 4-5
The Indian Naval ships — INS Ranvijay (Destroyer), Sahyadri (Frigate) and Kiltan (Corvette) and Shakti (Tanker) and helicopters will be carrying out drills with the Russian Admiral Vinogradov, Admiral Tributs and Boris Butoma which will have a fleet of helicopters too. These Russian ships are already visiting the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka from Aug 31 to September 3.
Since strict COVID-19 protocols are in place, this exercise too will be “non-contact and at sea only’ passage exercise. “This means there will be no visit to each other ships and there will be no sports activities,” explained an officer.
There will a number of maritime drills including tracking exercises, gun firing on surface and aerial targets, and replenishment at sea approaches have been planned for the naval drill.
The exercise coincides with the visit of the defence minister Rajnath Singh to Russia for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) defence ministers meet.
India had recently pulled out of the KavKaz 2020 military drill in Russia which is scheduled to take place later this month.
Naval drills post COVID-19
The Indian Navy had conducted a Passage Exercise with the US aircraft carrier with the USS Nimitz strike group in the same area near the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands.
Financial Express Online had reported that in July the USS Nimitz was transiting through the Indian Ocean on its return from the South China Sea through the Malacca Strait.
This was the spot where the USS Nimitz undertook freedom of navigation operations.
Amidst the ongoing tensions with China, the Indian Navy has been keeping a close watch on the movement in the IOR of Chinese Naval ships. The movement of the Chinese boats in the IOR has gone up on the pretext of Anti-piracy patrols.
China had opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa in 2017.
India has initiated major infrastructure expansion on the A&N island chain because of their strategic importance.
Earlier in June, the similar drills were carried out between the Indian Navy and the Japanese side.
Indian Navy veteran Commodore Anil Jai Singh says, “India’s close strategic relationship with Russia has successfully endured the vicissitudes of the global transition over the last five decades and has seamlessly transitioned from the days of the former Soviet Union to present-day Russia and continues to endure as we enter the third decade of the 21st century. However, it was not till 2003 that a structured bilateral naval exercise programme called Exercise Indra began between the two countries. Within the space of 14 years, Indra has expanded into a tri-services exercise, the first of which was held in 2017.”
“The Soviet Union/Russia has been the largest supplier of military hardware to India since the 1960s. Even today, despite India’s close proximity to the US and USD 20 Bn worth of military hardware coming from that country, the strategic depth continues to be provided by Russia; be it the lease of nuclear-powered attack submarines (which no other country has ever provided to any other) or the sale of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (former Gorshkov) and the MiG 29K carrier strike aircraft or the maritime long-range maritime patrol capability till the arrival of the P8I.”
“The cooperation in missile technology which began with the P-15 (Styx) missile on the Osa class missile boats that devastated Karachi harbour and decisively turned the 1971 war in India’s favour has continued with a series of missiles for surface warfare. The first-ever submarine torpedo tube-launched missiles with ground attack capability, fitted on the Kilo-class submarines are Russian.The joint development of the Brahmos missile is an unqualified success story and encapsulates the defence relationship between the two countries. Similarly, the other two services have also benefited from Soviet/Russian hardware which forms a large part of their inventory. The S-400, which seems to be defining the contemporary balance of power equation in the region will also soon be in India’s arsenal. However, this is not to suggest that there have not been occasional hiccups and occasions when Russia has demanded its pound of flesh but the depth of the relationship has endured,” Commodore Anil Jai Singh, opines.