New Delhi: With an eye to bolster India’s clutch in the South China Sea against friendly-foe China, India joined the US, Japan and Philippines and conducted six-day naval drills in the controversial waterway.
The synchronized “group sail” from May 3 to 9 included Indian guided missile destroyer INS Kolkata and fleet tanker INS Shakti, American destroyer USS Williams P Lawrence, Japanese helicopter carrier JMSDF Izumo and destroyer JMSDF Murasame and Philippines frigate BRP Andres Bonifaci.
Indian Navy spokesperson Captain D K Sharma said, “The group sail was aimed to deepen the existing partnership and foster mutual understanding among the participating navies. It showcased India’s commitment to operating with like-minded nations to ensure safe maritime environment through enhanced inter-operability.”
China has always been aggressive and expansionist in the South China Sea, while India has consistently reiterated the need for all countries to respect the freedom of navigation in international waters and over flight consistent with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982.
“The warships from the four countries in South China Sea underway replenishment runs, cross-deck flying and exchange of sea-riders,” said Sharma.
Captain of the US destroyer, Commander Andrew J Klug, said, “Professional engagements with our allies, partners and friends in the region are opportunities to build upon our existing, strong relationships.”