The Indian and Russian navies on Friday began a two-day mega military exercise in the Bay of Bengal to further consolidate their interoperability in dealing with various security challenges, officials said.
A wide-range of activities across the spectrum of maritime operations like surface and anti-aircraft drills, firing exercises, helicopter operations and replenishment at sea will be part of the 11th edition of the biennial exercise Indra Navy, they said.
The two countries undertook the exercise at a time when India is engaged in a bitter border row with China in eastern Ladakh.
The Indian Navy has significantly expanded its deployment in the Indian Ocean Region, deploying a plethora of warships and submarines following the border row to send across a message to Beijing. The maritime space around the Malacca Strait is very critical for China's supply chain through sea routes.
"The exercise is aimed at enhancing interoperability, improving understanding and imbibing best practices between the two navies. It epitomises the long-term strategic relationship between the two navies" Indian Navy Spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said.
He said the exercise has matured over the years with increase in scope, complexity of operations, and level of participation. The Indian Navy is represented by guided missile destroyer Ranvijay, indigenous frigate Sahyadri and fleet tanker Shakti, along with their integral helicopters.
The assets deployed in the exercise by the Russian Navy include destroyer Admiral Vinogradov, destroyer Admiral Tributs and fleet tanker Boris Butoma of the Pacific Fleet which are normally based at Vladivostok.
"The primary aim of exercise Indra Navy is to further consolidate interoperability built up by the two Navies over the years and also to enhance understanding and procedures for multi-faceted maritime operations," Commander Madhwal said.
He said the exercise would help to further boost mutual confidence and cooperation between the two navies and would reinforce the long-standing bond of friendship between the two countries.
The exercise is taking place when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is in Moscow to attend a ministerial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The Indian Navy has been steadily expanding cooperation with like-minded navies.
In July, the Indian Navy carried out a military exercise with a US Navy carrier strike group led by nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz off the coast of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The USS Nimitz is the world's largest warship.
In the exercise with the US Navy, four frontline warships of the Indian Navy participated. The US carrier strike group was transiting through the Indian Ocean Region on its way from the South China Sea.
The US Navy carrier strike group comprises USS Nimitz, Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Princeton and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Ralph Johnson. The Indian Navy carried out a similar exercises with the Japanese navy in June.