Congruent with India’s “Act East” policy and days before the start of the Malabar naval exercise, India and Vietnam conducted a day-long “sea phase” exercise in the South China Sea on August 18. The naval exercise, which is part of the ongoing deployment of Indian warships in the region, saw Indian Naval Ship (INS) Ranvijay, the Navy’s guided-missile destroyer and the latest of the Rajput class, and INS Kora, the Kora class missile corvette, undertake surface warfare exercises, weapon firing drills and helicopter operations with the Vietnamese People’s Navy Ship Ly Thai To.
The “sea phase” was the culmination of four days of professional interactions between the Indian and Vietnamese navies. The Indian warships had earlier arrived at Cam Ranh on August 15 for the “harbour phase” of the visit.
Commander Vivek Madhwal, the spokesperson for the Navy, stated: “The sea phase included surface warfare exercises, weapon firing drills and helicopter operations. Regular interactions between the two navies over the years have enhanced their interoperability and adaptability. This has ensured a quantum jump in the complexity and scale of professional exchanges.”
In June, the two countries undertook a defence security dialogue and Indian naval ships have been frequently visiting Vietnamese ports. Training cooperation between the two navies have been on the rise over the years, the spokesperson added.
In April, in a webinar held between senior defence officials from India and Vietnam, India had offered Vietnam support in developing the capability in both construction and maintenance of naval vessels. Anurag Bajpai, Joint Secretary of Defence Production, was quoted as saying that India’s efforts to achieve higher levels of self-reliance in defence manufacturing was “not just inward looking but is also about producing cost-effective products … for friendly nations”. India had earlier offered to help modernise and train the Vietnamese armed forces. India had also offered the Indo-Russian developed BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and the indigenously developed Akash surface-to-air missile defence systems to Vietnam.
INS Ranvijay and INS Kora will join the Navy’s stealth frigate INS Shivalik and the anti-submarine corvette INS Kadmatt in the all-important Malabar exercise which will be held off Guam from August 26 to 29. All four warships are part of the Indian naval taskforce on a two-month-long operational deployment to South East Asia, the South China Sea and the Western Pacific.
The Malabar exercise, which is held between the “Quad” countries (India, the United States, Japan and Australia) is aimed at ensuring “a free, open, secure and stable” Indo-Pacific. After the Malabar exercise, the Indian naval task force is scheduled to conduct bilateral exercises with the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia.