India and other Quad nations join France in mega naval drill in Indian Ocean

New Delhi, Apr 5 (PTI) India and three other Quad member nations on Monday joined France in kick-starting a three-day naval wargame in the eastern Indian Ocean in reflection of their growing maritime cooperation amid China’s growing efforts to expand influence in the region.

Officials said the Indian naval ships Satpura and Kiltan along with P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft are participating in the French Navy-led ‘La Perouse’ exercise.

Besides India, other Quad member nations participating in the first such exercise are the US, Japan and Australia, they said.

The Indian Ocean, considered the backyard of the Indian Navy, is critical for India’s strategic interests. China has been making concerted efforts to increase its presence in the region.

Indian Navy Spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said the exercise will witness complex and advanced naval operations including surface warfare, anti-air warfare and air defence exercises.

He said it will also feature weapon firing exercises, cross deck flying operations and tactical manoeuvres among others.

“The exercise will showcase high levels of synergy, coordination and interoperability between the friendly navies,” he said.

“Participation by the Indian Navy in the exercise demonstrates the shared values with friendly navies ensuring freedom of seas and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order,” Madhwal said.

The French Navy has deployed its amphibious assault helicopter carrier Tonnerre and frigate Surcouf while the US Navy is being represented by amphibious transport dock ship Somerset, officials said.

The Royal Australian Navy has deployed Anzac, a frigate, and tanker Sirius while Japanese Navy is being represented by the destroyer Akebono, they said.

India has been expanding cooperation with navies of the US, Japan, Australia and France in the last few years.

On March 28 and 29, India and the US navies carried out a two-day naval exercise in the eastern Indian Ocean Region.

The Indian Navy deployed its warship Shivalik and long-range maritime patrol aircraft P8I in the ‘PASSEX’ exercise while the US Navy was represented by USS Theodore Rosevelt carrier strike group.

A carrier battle group or carrier strike group is a mega naval fleet comprising an aircraft carrier, accompanied by a large number of destroyers, frigates and other ships.

The PASSEX exercise came over a week after US Defence Secretary Austin flew into India as part of his three-nation first overseas tour that signalled the Biden administration’s strong commitment to its relations with its close allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.