Here's What's Happening In Andaman And Nicobar Islands Amid Standoff With China In Ladakh

Here's What's Happening In Andaman And Nicobar Islands Amid Standoff With China In Ladakh
US Navy Carrier Battle Group with USS Ronald Reagan in the lead.
Snapshot
  • An Indo-US Naval drill, aimed at improving interoperability between the two navies, will take place as US carrier group passes through the areas in eastern Indian Ocean close to the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

In what is being seen as yet another signal to China amid the standoff in Ladakh, India will conduct a naval exercise with the US close to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the eastern Indian ocean.

A US Navy aircraft carrier strike group, comprising aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its compliment of fighter aircraft and escort vessels, will conduct drills with warships of the Indian Navy.

The USS Nimitz carrier group crossed the Malacca Strait on Saturday, and is on its way for deployment in the Middle East following exercises in the South China Sea with another US carrier group led by USS Ronald Reagan amid rising tension between Washington and Beijing.

The naval drill, aimed at improving interoperability between the two navies, will take place as the carrier group passes through the areas in eastern Indian Ocean close to the Andaman and Nicobar islands. A maritime drill of this kind is called 'Passex' or passage exercise in naval parlance.

This is not the first naval exercise that India has conducted near the A&N islands since the standoff with China at multiple points in eastern Ladakh began in early May.

Last month, warships of the Indian Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force conducted a passex exercise in the Indian Ocean as the latter moved towards the Malacca Strait.

Then, earlier this month, the Indian Navy held a major exercise off the A&N islands involving both the Eastern Naval Command and the Andaman and Nicobar Command, India’s only theatre command.

Frigates, destroyers, submarines and support vessels from both these commands participated in the exercise.

Also taking part in the exercise were P-8I aircraft of the Indian Navy based at INS Rajali naval air station in Tamil Nadu.

The participation of these submarine-hunting aircraft armed with Harpoon Block-II anti-ship missiles and MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, experts say, was a clear signal to China.

“Some warships deployed near the Malacca Strait are also taking part,” a report on this naval exercise in the Times of India had quoted a source as saying.

The Malacca Strait, a narrow stretch of water between Indonesia in the South and Malaysia and Singapore in the north, is critical for China.

It connects the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea, and a large part of China’s trade, including 80 per cent of its crude oil requirement, passes through the Malacca Strait.

According to defence expect Nitin Gokhale, India has deployed half a squadron of its Jaguar fighters at the Car Nicobar Air Force Base, not far from the Malacca Strait.

The fighters, configured for maritime strike role, are capable of hitting enemy ships from a standoff range.

The Narendra Modi government also appears to be moving towards a final decision on inviting Australia to its Malabar naval exercise with Japan and the US.

Australia’s relations with China have deteriorated over the last few months, and an invitation to Australia to join the Malabar naval exercise will be a signal to China as it will bring together all the Quad countries militarily for the first time in many years.

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