French Navy ships Assault helicopter carrier Tonnerre and Surcouf frigate at Kochi port ahead of France-led ‘La Pérouse’ joint exercise with QUAD members (ANI Photo)
NEW DELHI: India and the three other Quad countries kicked off a major naval exercise with France in the Bay of Bengal on Monday, underlining the growing strategic congruence in ensuring a secure and stable Indo-Pacific in face of China’s belligerence in the region.
India deployed its advanced stealth frigate INS Satpura and anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kiltan, along with P-8I long range maritime patrol aircraft, for the three-day “La Pérouse” exercise led by France.
“The exercise will witness complex and advanced naval operations, including surface warfare, anti-air warfare and air defence operations as well as weapon firings, cross-deck flying, tactical manoeuvres and seamanship evolutions such as replenishment at sea,” said Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal.
“It will showcase high levels of synergy, coordination and interoperability between the five friendly navies. Participation by the Indian Navy in the exercise demonstrates the shared values with the friendly navies in ensuring freedom of seas and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order,” he added.
France has fielded amphibious assault warship Tonnerre and frigate Surcouf for the exercise, while the US is represented by amphibious transport dock ship Somerset. Australia, in turn, has deployed frigate Anzac and tanker Sirius, while Japan is represented by destroyer Akebono.
The navies of the Quad, namely India, the US, Japan and Australia, had also come together for the high-voltage Malabar exercise in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea in November last year after a gap of 13 years.
The ongoing Quad-plus-France exercise comes soon after Indian warships and fighters also held another exercise with the mammoth nuclear-powered USS Theodore Roosevelt and its accompanying warships in the same region last week.
With the Quad countries declaring their firm intent to deter any “coercion” in the Indo-Pacific during a summit of their leaders on March 12, a multi-tier cooperation and coordination mechanism is now taking shape to advance security as well as counter threats in the region, as was earlier reported by TOI.
US secretary of defence Lloyd Austin and South Korean defence minister Suh Wook, both former Army generals, had also made back-to-back visits to India last month to discuss bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.