US Congressman praises Quad Plus France naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal

Lalit K Jha
·3-min read

Washington, Apr 6 (PTI) An influential American lawmaker has applauded the beginning of the Quad plus France naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal and said that he is dedicated to advancing the US-India defence relationship, particularly in support of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.

India and three other Quad member nations- the US, Australia and Japan on Monday joined France in kick-starting a three-day naval wargame in the eastern Indian Ocean in reflection of their growing maritime cooperation amid China's growing efforts to expand influence in the region.

“Great to see the US and India participating in the Quad + France naval exercise beginning today in the Bay of Bengal,” Congressman Brad Sherman said in a tweet on Monday.

Sherman is the co-chair of the India Caucus in the US House of Representatives. Congressman Steve Chabot is the other co-chair.

As co-chairs of Indian Caucus, Chabot and “I are dedicated to advancing the US-India defence relationship, particularly in support of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Sherman said.

The Defence Ministry said that Indian Navy Ships INS Satpura (with an integral helicopter embarked) and INS Kiltan alongwith P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft are participating, for the first time; in multi-lateral maritime exercise La Pérouse, being conducted in the Eastern Indian Ocean Region from April 5 to 7.

The Indian Navy ships and aircraft will exercise at sea with ships and aircraft of French Navy (FN), Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) and United States Navy (USN) during the three day exercise at sea, it said.

The exercise La Pérouse, led by French Navy, has participation by FN Ships Tonnerre, an amphibious assault ship and frigate Surcouf. United States Navy is represented in the exercise by amphibious transport dock ship Somerset.

Her Majesty’s Australian Ships (HMAS) Anzac, a frigate and tanker Sirius have been deployed by RAN for participation in the exercise while Japan Maritime Self Defence Ship (JMSDF) is represented by the destroyer Akebono. In addition to the ships, integral helicopters embarked onboard ships will also participate in the exercise.

Exercise La Pérouse will witness complex and advanced naval operations including surface warfare, anti-air warfare and air defence exercises, weapon firing exercises, cross deck flying operations, tactical manoeuvres and seamanship evolutions such as replenishment at sea.

The exercise will showcase high levels of synergy, coordination and inter-operability between the friendly navies. Participation by the Indian Navy in the exercise demonstrates the shared values with friendly navies ensuring freedom of seas and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order.

The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China's increasing military muscle-flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers. The US has been favouring making Quad a security architecture to check China's growing assertiveness.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years.

Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan.

Both maritime areas in the South and East China seas are rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are also vital to global trade.

In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence. PTI LKJ RS RS