Indian naval ships to join maritime patrol of US Navy’s Passage Exercise

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Indian naval ships will join maritime patrol and other aircraft to participate in a “Passage Exercise” or Passex with the US Navy’s Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group during its transit through Indian Ocean Region later this week, the Indian navy said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Passex was part of regular exercises between the Indian and US navies, the statement said adding that the bilateral and multilateral format exercises “underscore the shared values as partner navies, in ensuring commitment to an open, inclusive and a rules-based international order.”

The Indian Navy conducted as Passex with the USS Ronald Reagan in October last year and in July, Indian naval ships conducted another Passex with the USS Nimitz which was returning from the South China Sea through the Strait of Malacca where it undertook Freedom of Navigation Operations. In September, a US Navy P-8A long range maritime patrol aircraft landed at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, for refuelling under the bilateral logistics support agreement for the first time.

According to news reports, the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is currently in the Indian Ocean on its way to the Middle East to help provide support for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Earlier this month the CSG was in the contested waters of the South China Sea earlier this month with pictures on Twitter showing the US CSG conducting exercises with the Singapore Navy. China and its smaller neighbours in Southeast Asia both claim the waters of the South China Sea.

“The two-day exercise aims to strengthen the bilateral relationship and cooperation by demonstrating the ability to integrate and coordinate comprehensively in maritime operations. High tempo operations during the exercise include advanced air defence exercises, cross deck helicopter operations and anti-submarine exercises,” the Indian statement said. “The participating forces will endeavour to hone their war-fighting skills and enhance their interoperability as an integrated force to promote peace, security and stability in the maritime domain,” it added.

“Indian Naval Ships Kochi and Teg along with P8I (maritime patrol aircraft) and (Indian ship based) MiG 29K aircraft” are participating in the Passex, the statement said adding that the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group would be passing through the Indian Ocean on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Indian Naval warships along with aircraft from Indian Navy and Indian Air Force will be engaged in “joint multi-domain operations” with the Carrier Strike Group that will comprise the Nimitz class aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, the Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Halsey and the Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh, the Indian navy statement said.

India and the US regular take part in the Malabar series of exercises, that began in the 1990s as a bilateral exercise, but in recent years has expanded to include Japan. Last year, India invited the Australian navy to take part in the Malabar exercises held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea in November – making it the first time that the navies of all four countries that come together in a grouping known as the Quad conducted military drills together. It came against the backdrop of heightened tensions between India and China. China has always eyed the Quad suspiciously and accused the four countries aiming to circumscribe its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

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