By Ajit K Dubey
On board HMS Queen Elizabeth, October 21 (ANI): Terming the ongoing joint exercises between the Indian and British forces in India as important for enhancing interoperability between all the forces of the two countries, a top British naval officer said the aim of the drills is to thicken the relationship between them.
"In defence, the exercises are important for thickening the relationship between our navies, air forces and armies. On this particular aspect, we are going to get this in this exercise. We are all exercising together at the same time to get all our communications going between all parties in the exercise," Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group commander Commodore Steve Moorehouse told ANI in an interview.
A number of high-level visits and exercises between the army, navy and air force of the two countries is taking place at the moment as the British CDS, Army and Navy chiefs are in the national capital while the British forces are exercising with Indian forces at different places. The exercise Konkan Shakti is the maiden tri-services exercise between India and the UK.
The Royal Navy carrier strike group built around the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth operates the F-35 strike fighters along with the Merlin Mark 2 helicopters. The submarine component includes nuclear submarines, attack choppers along surface ships from different countries.
Moorehouse said the ongoing exercises between the Su-30MKIs of the Indian Air Force and British and American Marine Corps F-35s were going on well and both sides were gaining a lot from each other and operating jointly.
The American Marine Corps F-35s are permanent part of the British carrier strike group and operate with them.
Commenting on the participation of American Marine Corps F-35 fighter squadron, Brigadier General Simon Doran told ANI that the US F-35s which are part of the British strike group have been flying with the Indian Air Force planes and they would be flying with the Indian Navy in the coming days.
"I think any opportunity to work with friends and allies makes the region safer and raises the potential for more prosperity on the open seas," Doran said when asked if the participation of Indian, American and British forces was going to help their cooperation in working or operating jointly in the region.
Asked about the experience of British Navy carrier in the South China Sea, Moorehouse said the "first thing that I have been telling media in UK is that it is a huge piece of water and air space and it is very similar to the Mediterranean. We were exercising there and the Chinese were exercising there. Our engagement with the Chinese navy and Air Force was very safe and entirely professional."
However, he said the claims there (South China Sea) need to be sorted out diplomatically with people sitting around the table. Navies bumping up against one another won't be the answer.
Asked about the deployment of the carrier strike group in the region in view of the announcement of creation of AUKUS grouping by Australia, US and the UK, the Royal Navy officer said, "AUKUS is similar to our relationship with India with so many strands like security, sharing of technology...
"It is like like-minded guys coming together. AUKUS is just another example of that. It's a good thing to do but it does not mean that it takes precedence over other organisations and alliances that we are in," he said. (ANI)