India, Singapore to kick off naval drills in Andaman Sea today

India and Singapore will kick off naval drills in the Andaman Sea on Monday, with the focus on enhancing mutual inter-operability and learning the best practices from each other, an Indian Navy spokesperson said on Sunday. The 27th edition of the India-Singapore Bilateral Maritime Exercise (SIMBEX-20) will be held from November 23 to 25.

The drills come on the heels of the Malabar exercise involving the Quad navies and a trilateral exercise conducted by India, Singapore and Thailand.

“The scope and complexity of these exercises has increased steadily over the past two decades to include advanced naval drills covering a wide spectrum of maritime operations,” navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said. The SIMBEX annual exercise was first held in 1994.

Indian Navy assets taking part in the drills include destroyer INS Rana, corvettes INS Kamorta and INS Karmuk, submarine INS Sindhuraj and the P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Singapore will be represented by frigates Intrepid and Steadfast with integral S70B helicopters and landing ship tank Endeavour. The drills are being conducted as a non-contact, at sea only exercise in view of Covid-19 pandemic.

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“SIMBEX-20 will witness the two friendly navies participate in advanced surface, anti-air warfare and anti-submarine warfare exercises including weapon firings over three days of intensive joint operations at sea,” Madhwal said, adding that the drills also highlight the commitment of the two navies to a rules-based international order.

The Indian Navy has conducted a series of exercises with friendly navies in the Indian Ocean Region in recent weeks. India, Singapore and Thailand on Sunday wrapped up the 2nd edition of a trilateral naval exercise in the Andaman Sea.

“Besides improving inter-operability between the friendly navies, the India, Singapore and Thailand Trilateral Maritime Exercise (SITMEX) series of exercises also aim to strengthen mutual confidence and develop common understanding and procedures towards enhancing the overall maritime security in the region,” Madhwal said.

The navies of India, United States, Japan and Australia concluded the Malabar exercise in the northern Arabian Sea on November 20. The drills were conducted at a time when China is closely tracking the activities of the Quad countries and seeking to increase its footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The Malabar naval drills were conducted in two phases: the first phase in the Bay of Bengal from November 3 to 6; the second phase was held in the Arabian Sea from November 17 to 20.

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