NEW DELHI: The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, the world’s largest international maritime military exercise, with 25 nations, 25,000 personnel, land forces from 18 countries, 47 surface ships, five submarines and more than 200 aircraft, began off the coasts of Hawaii and southern California on Wednesday.
The Indian Navy has deployed INS Sahyadri, an indigenously built Shivalik Class stealth multirole frigate, for the biennial exercise which will continue till August 2 and cover disaster relief, amphibious operations, anti-piracy work, missile shots, mine clearance, maritime security, anti-submarine warfare and air defence operations. China had been invited to participate, but the invitation was revoked by Washington last month as a protest against the continued militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Commanded by Captain Shantanu Jha, INS Sahyadri left for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, immediately after the trilateral Malabar Exercise (June 7 to 16) off the US Naval base of Guam, involving the US, Indian and Japanese navies. A day before the Malabar Exercise, the US formally renamed its Pacific Command as the US-Indo-Pacific Command, apparently to highlight India’s interests in the region. However, despite pressure from the US, India has been reluctant to actively participate in Freedom of Navigation Operations or joint patrols run by the US in the South China Sea.
According to the Indian Navy, RIMPAC will provide a platform for multilateral interactions, and increase interoperability and common understanding of procedures for maritime security operations. “The professional exchanges in harbour and diverse range of activities at sea, including complex surface, sub-surface and air operations would enable sharing of best practices and honing of operational skills,” it added. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in a series that began in 1971.
The Indian Navy was an observer for the 2006, 2010 and 2012 editions of the exercise. In 2014, INS Sahyadri was deployed for the 24th edition of the exercise, while INS Satpura took part in 2016. “Participation in RIMPAC 18 is a significant milestone in Indian Navy’s efforts towards strengthening mutual confidence among navies of the region and is expected to further bolster India’s contribution in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” the Navy added.