The United States has been mobilising its naval assets in the South China Sea in solidarity with its allies and partners against China flexing its muscles.
The US has deployed several aircraft carriers and guided missile destroyers to the Indo-Pacific region.
In a signal to China amid its border confrontations, Indian warships held a passage exercise with a US strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS Nimitz on Monday off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean, said a spokesperson of the Indian Navy in New Delhi on Monday.
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is transiting through IOR. During the passage, #IndianNavy units undertook Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with #USNavy.
Indian Navy had also conducted similar PASSEXs with #JMSDF and #FrenchNavy in recent past.@USNavy@SpokespersonMoD @MEAIndia pic.twitter.com/ntj5gFFNqC
— SpokespersonNavy (@indiannavy) July 20, 2020
Indian warships have conducted similar exercises with the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force and French warships in the recent past.
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and other US warships had just completed an operational deployment and “freedom of navigation” mission in the South China Sea to show American solidarity with its allies and partners in the region.
“Nimitz and Reagan Carrier Strike Groups are operating in the South China Sea, wherever international law allows, to reinforce our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, a rules-based international order, and to our allies and partners in the region”, media quoted the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group’s commander Rear Admiral Jim Kirk as saying.
Nimitz-class super carriers have a displacement of around 100,000 tons and are capable of carrying 80-90 fighters – almost the size of the entire fleet of fighters of many countries.
The passing exercise by Indian warships with several friendly navies comes at a time when New Delhi is engaged with Beijing in a bitter border dispute.
The lingering border disputes between the two major Asian nations have resulted in several clashes – the Indo-Chinese War in 1962 and a limited war in 1967, as well as two standoffs, the first in Doklam in 2017 and the latest violent one in eastern Ladakh on 15 June.
India lost 20 soldiers, including an officer, in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, while China reportedly also suffered an unconfirmed number of casualties.
Both countries have held several rounds of discussions at the commander and diplomatic-level, but the Chinese Army is yet to withdraw from the friction points.
The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is mainly a land border in most regions, but in Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh it passes through a lake. India controls the western portion of the 45km-long lake, while the rest is under Chinese control. Most of the clashes between the two countries have taken place in the Galwan Valley.