India, Singapore navies begin bilateral drill in South China Sea

India and Singapore have started bilateral naval exercises SIMBEX-17 in the South China Sea to fine tune the interoperability between the two navies in the disputed waters as well as strengthen surveillance of the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet Rear Admiral B Dasgupta (left) calls on Col Ken Cheong Kwok Chien Fleet Commander RSN ahead of SIMBEX.
Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet Rear Admiral B Dasgupta (left) calls on Col Ken Cheong Kwok Chien Fleet Commander RSN ahead of SIMBEX. Photo courtesy: Indian Ministry of Defence

The weeklong exercise between navies of the Republic of Singapore and India will see parti the ipation of Indian Naval Ships Shivalik, Sahyadri, Jyoti and Kamorta and one P8-I Maritime Patrol and Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft.

While INS Sahyadri and INS Kamorta were in Singapore since May 12, INS Shivalik and INS Jyoti joined directly for the sea phase of the exercise. The ships are under the command of Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet.

SIMBEX stands for ‘Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercises’. Bilateral cooperation between Singapore and India was first formalised when RSN ships began training with the Indian Navy in 1994. This year’s edition of SIMBEX-17 being held in the South China Sea would be the 24th in the series and is aimed to increase interoperability between the two navies as well as develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.

Singapore India Maritime Bilatral Exercise SIMBEX kick-starts with briefing by Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet Rear Admiral B Dasgupta.
Singapore India Maritime Bilatral Exercise SIMBEX kick-starts with briefing by Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet Rear Admiral B Dasgupta Photo courtesy: Indian Ministry of Defence.

The scope of the current exercise includes wide-ranging professional interactions during the Harbour Phase scheduled from 18 May to 20 May and a diverse range of operational activities at sea during the Sea Phase to be held from 21 May to 24 May. The thrust of exercises at sea this year would be on anti-submarine warfare, integrated operations with surface, air and sub-surface forces, air defence and surface encounter exercises.

During SlMBEX-17, the Singapore Navy is represented by RSN Ships Supreme, Formidable and Victory and Maritime Patrol Aircraft Fokker F50 in addition to the RSAF F-16 aircraft.

The two navies share a long standing relationship with regular professional interactions that include exchange programmes, staff talks and training courses. Singapore Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Lai Chung Han had earlier visited ENC and participated in lFR-16 held in February last year in the City of Destiny, Visakhapatnam. RSS Formidable and a Fokker F 50 aircraft participated in SlMBEX-16 which was held at Visakhapatnam and in Bay of Bengal.

India and Singapore share a rich history and a strategic relationship. A number of bilateral agreements exist between the two countries in various spheres. The visit of the Indian Naval Ships seeks to underscore India’s peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly and harmonious countries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain, according to a statement issued by the Indian Defence Ministry.

Indian naval assets have been increasingly deployed in recent times to address the main maritime concerns of the region. In addition, as part of the Indian Government’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), the Indian Navy has also been involved in assisting countries in the Indian Ocean Region with Exclusive Economic Zone surveillance, search and rescue, and other capacity-building and capability-enhancement activities. The current deployment will contribute towards the Indian Navy’s efforts to consolidate inter-operability and forge strong bonds of friendship across the seas, the Ministry said.

Flagship of Eastern Fleet INS Sahyadri entering Singapore harbour.
Flagship of Eastern Fleet INS Sahyadri in Singapore harbour. Photo courtesy: Indian Navy

Over the past few decades, India has made substantial advances in terms of designing and building warships indigenously and the visiting ships bear testimony to these capabilities. INS Sahyadri, a multi-role stealth frigate is commanded by Captain Anil Jaggi while INS Kamorta, an Anti-Submarine Warfare Corvette is commanded by Commander Vipin Gupta. Both ships are indigenously designed and built.

During their stay in the Singapore harbour, various activities such as official calls, formal reception on board ships, ships open to visitors, guided tours for Indian naval personnel and professional interaction between naval personnel of both the nations have been planned. lNS Jyoti, the fleet replenishment tanker is commanded by Captain S Shyam Sundar.

Author
Pradeep Rana
Pradeep Rana – Senior Correspondent

Pradeep Rana has worked as a journalist with news ‚Äčagencies UNI and PTI, newspapers Indian Express and The Times Of India, and television channel NHK as South Asia Correspondent. He has also worked as Media Analyst at US Embassy, and edited several magazines and a medical handbook.

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