India, Russia to hold Naval drills in Andaman Sea

Move comes amid ongoing standoff with China in Ladakh, tensions in Indian Ocean

Updated - September 01, 2020 09:59 pm IST

Published - September 01, 2020 06:40 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Indian Navy logo.

The Indian Navy logo.

Amid high operational alert by the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) due to the ongoing standoff with China in Ladakh , India and Russia are scheduled to hold the bilateral naval exercise, Indra 2020, in the Andaman Sea, close to the strategic Strait of Malacca later this week.

Also read: Russia agrees to quickly address urgent defence requirements sought by India

“Three Russian navy ships will take part in the exercise on September 4 and 5 along with an equal number from the Indian Navy, along with some aircraft,” a defence source said. This is also the first bilateral naval exercise since all such engagements were suspended due to COVID-19 .

The timing of the exercise coincides with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Russia for the Shanghai Cooperation organisation (SCO) defence ministers meet and also comes just after India withdrew from the Kavkaz-2020 multinational exercise in Russia scheduled for later this month. While the stated reason for the withdrawal was the COVID-19 pandemic, defence sources had said that it due to the participation of Chinese troops.

“So instead of exercising with Chinese troops in Kavkaz 2020, we would exercise with Russian Navy near the mouth of Malacca,” another source observed.

Also read: Jaishankar, Rajnath Singh to meet Russia-China counterparts this week, U.S. and Quad next month

In July, frontline warships of the Indian Navy conducted a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the U.S. aircraft carrier with USS Nimitz strike group in the same area near the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) islands as it was transiting the Indian Ocean. The USS Nimitz was returning from the South China Sea through the Malacca Strait where it undertook freedom of navigation operations.

With ongoing tensions, Indian Navy is keeping a close watch on 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 has embarked on a major infrastructure expansion plan on the A&N island chain.

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