The navies of India and the US on Sunday started a two-day exercise in the eastern Indian Ocean region, reflecting the growing congruence in their defence and military partnership.
The exercise comes a week after US defence secretary Lloyd Austin visited India as part of his three-nation first overseas tour.
The trip to Japan, South Korea, and India is seen as underscoring the strong commitment of US President Joe Biden’s administration to its relations with its close allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Indian Navy deployed its warship INS Shivalik and long-range maritime patrol aircraft P8I in the passage exercise or ‘PASSEX’, while the US Navy deployed the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group, a spokesman for the Indian Navy said.
A carrier battle group or carrier strike group consists of an aircraft carrier and a large number of destroyers, frigates and other ships.
The naval exercise was aimed at consolidating the synergy and interoperability achieved during the Malabar exercise that took place in November 2020, an individual close the development said.
Besides India, the US and Japan, which have been participating in the Malabar series of exercises, the Australian navy had joined the drill for the first time in 2020, making it an exercise of the forces of the Quad countries.
“In a first, enhancing jointmanship, Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters were also included in the exercise affording the IAF an opportunity to practice air interception and air defence with the US Navy,” the spokesman said.
During the US defence secretary’s visit last week, India and the US resolved to consolidate their robust defence cooperation through deeper military-to-military engagement with Austin describing the partnership as a “stronghold” of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
In July 2020, 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 the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.