They may have fought together or in close support of each other in both the world wars, however for more than half a century, there was a sense of drift.
By 8am on Friday, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) would have docked three of its vessels off the port city of Vizag, home to India’s Eastern Naval Command (ENC) and brought to shore over 400 personnel for the first bilateral exercise with their Indian counterparts. The two democracies who share the rim of the Indian Ocean will then square off for a 10-day long affair which will include a vast array of exercises code-named AUSINDEX.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) will be represented by its ANZAC class frigate HMAS Arunta, support ship HMAS Sirius, Collins class submarine Sheean and an AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance plane of the Royal Australian Air Force. As for the Indian Navy, on the job will be a Shivalik-class stealth frigate, Ranvir-class destroyer, INS Kamorta – anti-submarine stealth corvette alongwith a tanker for replenishment at sea in addition to a P8I maritime surveillance plane.
The entire exercise will see officers of both the services being deployed on each other’s vessels as well as take on aspects like anti-submarine warfare, anti-piracy among others. Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews, who was in New Delhi only last week had declared that the exercise will aim to include areas like, “integrated operations with surface, air and sub-surface, planning and conduct of anti-submarine warfare, helicopter cross deck operations, surface and anti-air firing as well as seamanship.”
While the Indian Navy (IN) is reeling from a depleted sub-surface arm and at the same time deficiencies in its surface fleet, the adversaries it faces in the Indian Ocean region, Pakistan Navy and People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) have covered significant distance in strengthening their respective arms. It also is re-adjusting to the US Navy’s increasing presence in the region plus the responsibility to protect increasing economic interests from Strait of Hormuz in the west to Mallaca straits and even South China sea in the east. In addition, the IN also has a largely unregulated, domestic fishing sector from where emerge asymmetrical threats, one manifestation of which were the sea-borne intrusion culminating in the Mumbai attacks on November 2008
For the RAN, which supports the US Navy’s increasing presence, territorial disputes which threaten trade and freedom of navigation in the IOR as well as South China Sea remain a top concern. It is also in a state of flux as it seeks to modernize itself and is in the process of submarine acquisition, like the IN.
While AUSINDEX will see nearly a week-long on-shore presence, it will have a four day long presence in the Bay of Bengal.
(Photo courtesy ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY)