Message to China? Indian and US Navies carry out drills in the Indian Ocean Region

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Updated: Jul 20, 2020 9:19 PM

The US Navy-- Nimitz Carrier Strike Group was transiting through IOR on its way from the South China Sea for deployment in the Middle East. Today’s drill was mainly to hone interoperability between the two navies.

Today’s drill was mainly to gauge interoperability between the two navies. (Reuters)

The world’s largest warship USS Nimitz of the US Navy and units of the Eastern Fleet of the Indian Navy carried out drills in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The Passage Exercise (PASSEX—which means passing exercise) between the two navies come at a time when tensions between India and China are growing along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The US Navy– Nimitz Carrier Strike Group was transiting through IOR on its way from the South China Sea for deployment in the Middle East. Today’s drill was mainly to hone interoperability between the two navies.

According to the US, the USS Nimitz — the Carrier Strike Group, consisted flagship USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104) and USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114).

And from the Indian Navy ships including Rana, Sahyadri, Shivalik and Kamorta, were part of the drill.

Earlier they had carried out dual-carrier operations in the Philippine Sea. The US Navy had issued a statement which read, “This was carried out to show our commitment to the regional allies. It was also to show our readiness to confront all those who challenge international norms that support regional stability.” It was also to show that the US Navy could quickly gather combat power in the Indo-Pacific.

Today’s PASSEX is of great importance and that too with the US Navy- Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. The Chinese have a huge presence in the IOR, and has a military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, which is strategically located at the mouth of crucial sea lanes which connect the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden and wider Indian Ocean.

Now, USS Nimitz moves onwards to the Middle East.

Why PASSEX?

Usually, such drills happen whenever there is an opportunity. This means that such exercises happen spontaneously and there is nothing pre-planned. Very recently, the Indian Navy had similar drills with the Japanese Navy as well as the French Navy.

According to the former spokesperson of the Indian Navy, Capt DK Sharma, “To have exercises with the like-minded navies always help, as it helps in picking up best practices.”

Malabar Exercise is expected to take place later this year.

Though a formal decision has yet to be announced, Australia is expected to join India, US and Japan, forming the Quad for Malabar Exercise later this year.

The four countries already have a working arrangement called ‘Quad.’ The Quad or Quadrilateral coalition has been set up in an effort to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific Region. And also to keep a check on China’s increasing attempts to expand military influence in the region and to keep the critical sea-routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any sort of influence.

A formal decision to add Australia formally as part of the ‘Quad’ for the Malabar Exercises’ is expected too.

This comes close on the heels of the growing tensions between India and China over the border issues.

While Australia has been expressing its interest in joining the Malabar Exercise, India had been delaying the process.

However, there has been an upswing in the bilateral ties between India and Australia which has been elevated to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ and the inking of the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA), during an online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

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