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Indian Navy has a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the United States Navy’s USS Nimitz carrier strike group near the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) islands as it is transiting the Indian Ocean naval ships on 20th July. The exercise comes amidst high alert by the Navy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) due to the ongoing stand-off with China along the border in Ladakh.
The Indian Navy ships Rana, Sahyadri, Shivalik and Kamorta, operated together with the USS Nimitz (CVN 68), along with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group’s Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104) and USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114).
With regular large-scale exercises deferred due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the India Navy has recently undertaken several PASSEXs, which officials described as an opportunity to improve interoperability on the high seas.
USS Nimitz, the U.S. Navy’s largest aircraft carrier, is returning from the South China Sea through the Malacca Straits, where it recently conducted integrated operations along with the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group to support, what the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said, “a free and open Indo- Pacific, and promote an international rules-based order wherein each country can reach its potential without sacrificing national sovereignty.”
The US Navy’s Chief of Information Rear Admiral Charlie Brown said, “It is good to have friends. From Nimitz in the Indian Ocean to Exercise Sea Breeze in the Black Sea, the US Navy exercises with our professional counterparts in navies around the world. There is much we can accomplish together.”
On June 27, JS Kashima and JS Shimayuki from the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) training squadron conducted a PASSEX with INS Rana and INS Kulish in the Indian Ocean. In a message on Twitter, JMSDF had said that it had “promoted mutual understanding with the Indian Navy through this exercise.”
The Navy is keeping a close watch on the movement in the IOR of Chinese naval ships, whose presence has gone up considerably over the years in the name of anti-piracy patrols. In 2017, China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
Given their strategic location, India is also undertaking a major infrastructure expansion plans on the A&N island chain. India is also close to taking a decision on inviting Australia for the Malabar trilateral naval exercise with Japan and the U.S.