NEW DELHI: India and Singapore on Thursday kicked off a major naval exercise “SIMBEX” in the contentious South China Sea, where China is locked in bitter territorial disputes with most of its neighbours.
India has deployed its stealth frigates, INS Shivalik and INS Sahyadri, anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kamorta and fleet replenishment tanker INS Jyoti as well as one Poseidon-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, under the overall command of Eastern Fleet commander Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, for the SIMBEX exercise. Singapore, in turn, has fielded warships Supreme, Formidable and Victory as well as F-16 fighters and Fokker F50 maritime patrol aircraft.
“This year’s edition of SIMBEX, the 24th such bilateral combat exercise, is aimed at further increasing interoperability between the two navies as well as developing common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations,” said Navy spokesperson Captain D K Sharma.
“The thrust of the exercise, with the harbor phase scheduled from May 18 to 20 and the sea phase from May 21 to 24, will be on anti-submarine warfare, integrated operations with surface, air and sub-surface forces, air defence and surface encounter operations,” he added.
With an eye firmly on China, India is steadily stepping up defence cooperation, ranging from expansion in military visits and exercises to training and technology-sharing, with Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia, as was reported earlier by TOI.
India has renewed its air force training agreement with Singapore for another five years. With land and airspace being a scarce commodity in Singapore, the city state has been utilizing Indian military facilities to train its own small but high-tech armed forces under special agreements signed in 2007 and 2008.
India, for instance, provides facilities to Singapore for exercises of mechanised forces at Babina and artillery at Deolali ranges as well as for fighters at the Kalaikunda airbase in West Bengal. The two countries also regularly hold the Simbex naval wargames, which have graduated from being purely anti-submarine warfare exercises to complex ones involving multiple facets of operations at sea.
As for the South China Sea, India has repeatedly stressed the need for all to respect the freedom of navigation in international waters, right of passage and overflight, unimpeded commerce and access to resources in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the