The Indian Navy is deploying a naval task group comprising four frontline warships to the South China Sea, Western Pacific and South East Asia for over two months beginning early August, in a significant move aimed at enhancing its profile in the strategically key sea lanes. In the course of their deployment, the ships will participate in the next edition of the Malabar exercise alongside the navies of Japan, Australia, the US in the Western Pacific, Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said.
It will be the second consecutive year when navies of all four member countries of Quad or the Quadrilateral coalition will carry out the mega naval wargame. China has been suspicious about the purpose of the Malabar exercise as it feels that the wargame is a part of efforts to contain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Commander Madhwal said the naval task group comprises guided-missile destroyer Ranvijay, guided-missile frigate Shivalik, anti-submarine corvette Kadmatt and guided-missile corvette Kora. The ships are also scheduled to carry out bilateral exercises with the navies of Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia.
“In pursuit of India”s ”Act East” policy and to enhance military cooperation with friendly countries, a task force of Indian Navy”s Eastern Fleet is scheduled to proceed on an overseas deployment to South East Asia, the South China Sea and Western Pacific from early August for over two months,” the Navy said in a statement.
It said the deployment seeks to underscore the Navy”s operational reach, peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly countries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain and to strengthen existing bonds between India and countries of the Indo-Pacific. The ships are scheduled to participate in bilateral SIMBEX exercise with Singaporean Navy, ”Samudra Shakti” exercise with the Indonesian Navy and AUS-INDEX exercise with the Australian Navy, the Navy said.
In a significant move, India last year invited Australia to be part of the Malabar exercise that effectively made it a drill by all four member nations of the Quad. The Malabar exercise started in 1992 as a bilateral drill between the Indian Navy and the US Navy in the Indian Ocean. Japan became a permanent member of the exercise in 2015.
“The Indian Navy undertakes regular deployments to friendly foreign countries and Indian and the Pacific Ocean regions in furtherance of the prime minister”s initiative of ”Security and Growth for All in the Region – SAGAR,” the Navy said in the statement. It said such engagements build ”bridges of friendship” and strengthen international cooperation.
“These maritime initiatives enhance synergy and coordination between the Indian Navy and friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and commitment towards freedom of navigation at sea,” the Navy said. “Besides regular port calls, the task group will operate in conjunction with friendly navies, to build military relations and develop interoperability in the conduct of maritime operations,” it said.
There have been mounting global concerns over China”s growing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. India, the US, Australia, Japan and many other like-minded countries are working towards ensuring a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. The Indian Navy has also been ramping up its presence in the Indian Ocean to keep a hawk-eyed vigil over Chinese activities