India has agreed to participate in the world’s largest maritime exercise, the ‘Rim of the Pacific’ or RIMPAC, hosted by the United States, just days after the Quad conference in Tokyo. Last month, the leaders of India, Japan, Australia, and the United States convened in New Delhi to keep China in check as the Chinese military expands its footprint in the Indo-Pacific area.
In the 28th edition of the naval wargames, which will take place in Honolulu and San Diego from June 29 to August 4, a total of 26 countries will demonstrate their naval strength.
According to a statement from the US Navy’s 3rd Fleet, the drills would include at least 38 surface ships, four submarines, and 170 aircraft, as well as around 25,000 personnel from nine countries, including ground troops.
RIMPAC began in 1971 as an annual exercise between the United States, Australia, and Canada. The maritime exercise, however, became a biennial event in 1974.
In 2014, India took part in RIMPAC for the first time, with the indigenously built Shivalik class stealth frigate INS Sahyadri. In the 2018 edition of the event, the INS Sahyadri once again represented the country. In the interim, the INS Satpura took part in a maritime exercise in 2016. Prior to 2014, the Indian Navy had only participated in the wargames as an observer in the 2006, 2010, and 2012 editions.
RIMPAC 2020 was scaled back due to the Covid-19 outbreak, with only 10 countries, 22 ships, one submarine, and around 5,300 personnel participating.
The battleship that will be dispatched to the upcoming wargames has yet to be determined by the Indian naval leadership.
The drills will focus on “amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine, and air defence exercises, as well as counter-piracy operations, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, and diving and recovery operations,” according to the US navy.
The US Navy said in a statement that “during RIMPAC, a network of capable, adaptive allies train and operate together in order to increase their aggregate forces and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Other countries participating in the wargames include the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, and the United Kingdom.
To confront China’s expanding military footprint in the Indo-Pacific, the Quad countries have been working to strengthen their military cooperation.
In the Indian Ocean, the US Navy, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) recently participated in ‘Malabar’ maritime drills with the Indian Navy.