In the midst of India's border row with China, a US Navy carrier strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz carried out a military drill with a fleet of Indian warships off the coast of Andaman and Nicobar Islands on Monday, officials said.
Four frontline warships of the Indian Navy participated in the "PASSEX" exercise when the US carrier strike group was transiting through the Indian Ocean Region on its way from the South China Sea, they said.
The USS Nimitz is the world's largest warship and the exercise between the two navies assumed significance as it took place in the midst of China's renewed military assertiveness in eastern Ladakh as well as in 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 officials said.
It is good to have friends. From #Nimitz in the Indian Ocean to #ExerciseSeaBreeze in the Black Sea, the @USNavy exercises with our professional counterparts in navies around the world. There is much we can accomplish together https://t.co/SkmGpWxjfL— Navy Chief of Information (@chinfo) July 20, 2020
While operating together, the US and Indian naval forces conducted high-end exercises designed to maximise training and interoperability, including air defence, the US 7th Fleet said in a statement.
It said Nimitz carrier strike group's operations are designed to provide security throughout the region while building partnerships with friends and allies.
"It was a privilege to operate with the Indian Navy," Rear Adm. Jim Kirk, commander, Nimitz carrier strike group, was quoted as saying by the 7th Fleet.
It said such Naval engagements improve the cooperation of the US and Indian maritime forces and contribute to the ability of both sides to counter threats at sea, from piracy to violent extremism.
"These engagements also present opportunities to build upon the pre-existing strong relationship between the United States and India and allow both countries to learn from each other," it added.
The 7th Fleet is the largest of the forward-deployed US fleets.
India carried out similar exercises with the Japanese navy last month.
The Indian Navy has increased its surveillance missions and beefed up operational deployment in the Indian Ocean region in the wake of the country's bitter border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.
The Indian Navy is also ramping up its operational cooperation with various friendly naval forces like the US Navy and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force in view of the fast-evolving regional security landscape, the officials said.
Navies from the US, India, Australia, Japan and France have been deepening their mutual cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region in view of China's growing attempt to expand military influence in the resource-rich region.
Following the escalation in tension between India and China in eastern Ladakh, the government put all the three forces on high alert.
The Indian Navy was asked to raise its alert-level in the Indian Ocean Region where the Chinese Navy has been making regular forays.