The Indian and Australian navies on Wednesday began a two-day mega exercise in the Indian Ocean region that featured a range of complex naval manoeuvres, anti-aircraft drills and helicopter operations, officials said.
It is the first major military exercise by India and Australia after they elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signed a landmark deal for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support in June.
The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) allows militaries of the two countries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies besides facilitating scaling up of overall defence cooperation. India has signed similar agreements with the US, France, Singapore and Japan.
The naval exercise comes at a time India is expanding deployment of its warships in the Indian Ocean region in the wake of its tense border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.
The Indian Ocean, considered the backyard of the Indian Navy, is critical for India’s strategic interests. It is the fourth major bilateral military drill by the Indian Navy since June. It has already carried out similar exercises with the navies of the US, Japan and Russia.
HMAS Hobart, the lead ship of the Hobart-class air warfare destroyers, is among the assets deployed in the exercise by the Royal Australian Navy, officials said. The Indian Navy deployed its stealth frigate INS Sahyadri and missile corvette INS Karmuk.
“The exercise is aimed at enhancing interoperability, improving understanding and imbibing best practices from each other,” an Indian Navy spokesperson said on Tuesday. A wide-spectrum of drills including surface and anti-aircraft drills, helicopter operations, maneuvers and cross deck flying is being carried out as part of the exercise.
Earlier this month, navies of India and Russia carried out an exercise in the Bay of Bengal. In July, the Indian Navy carried out a military exercise with a US Navy carrier strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz off the coast of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The USS Nimitz is the world’s largest warship.
In the exercise with the US Navy, four frontline warships of the Indian Navy participated. The US carrier strike group was transiting through the Indian Ocean Region on its way from the South China Sea. The US Navy carrier strike group comprises USS Nimitz, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Ralph Johnson.
The Indian Navy carried out a similar exercise with the Japanese navy in June. India has significantly expanded its deployment in the Indian Ocean region with a plethora of warships and submarines following the border row to send across a message to Beijing.
The maritime space around the Malacca Strait is very critical for China’s supply chain through sea routes.