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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

60% Navy forces in Indo-Pacific region now: US Navy chief

Gilday’s trip comes amid the second phase of the Malabar exercise being held in the Bay of Bengal among navies of India, US, Japan and Australia.

Written by Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi |
Updated: October 13, 2021 6:11:21 am
US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday with Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh in Delhi. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

US Naval Chief of Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, on Tuesday kicked off his 5-day visit to India by meeting his Indian counterpart Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and other senior government officials.

Gilday’s trip comes amid the second phase of the Malabar exercise – being held in the Bay of Bengal among navies of India, US, Japan and Australia.

Asked about what the US intends to do to counter China’s aggressive modernisation of its Navy, Gilday said they will not try to outspend it, but partners like India in the region will be the key to ensure that the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is stable. Given the importance of the region, 60 per cent of US Navy’s forces are now in the Indo-Pacific, he said.

He is scheduled to visit the Western Naval Command (at Mumbai) and Eastern Naval Command (at Visakhapatnam) during his trip, and will also embark on the USN Carrier Strike Group led by USS Carl Vinson, which is participating in the Malabar Exercise. He will be accompanied by an Indian delegation.

“For me this is a natural partnership between US and India. Two high-tech democracies with mutual interests. Whether that’s free and open maritime commons, regional stability, economic stability, respect for international institutions and rule of law, and our pushback on global authoritarianism and any threat to the above. India and US have a long healthy positive relationship,” Gilday said.

“Our navies continue cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to sustain an inclusive and free and open rules-based order, that’s actually the cornerstone of peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific.”

He stated that through “continued engagement, dialogue we are no doubt strengthening our forces’ collective ability to achieve our shared strategic vision”.

During his discussions in India, he said, the focus was on the Indian Ocean as a strategic waterway, and what it means “not just for India and the region, but also the globe.”

He said that a million ships transit the Indian Ocean, including 61 per cent of the container traffic, 40 per cent of global trade and 60 per cent of global GDP. Global economy, he said, “floats on sea waters”.

“We want the region and the globe to benefit from a stable Indian Ocean Region. That was really the focus of the talk,” he said.

Talking about how the US Navy would like to maintain the upper hand over an aggressive Chinese naval modernisation, Gilday said, “The key piece here is allies and partners. We are not going to outspend China.”

“The real asymmetric advantage that the US has is with its partners and allies not only in the region, abut globally. India is a supreme example of that. As a partner we have common interests.”

He said that the two navies “can come together to protect those interests, to cover down on gaps that we each might have in capabilities, in order to make us stronger against not just one particular nation, but anybody wants to interrupt free Indo-Pacific.”

In terms of Chinese investments in nuclear capability, the US Admiral said that “we are investing in ours are well” but “their trajectory has certainly been strong”.

Asked if Malabar can be expanded to include other nations, Gilday said that could happen in the future, but the four members of the Quad have to discuss that. But, he mentioned there are already multiple exercise in the region and globally with like-minded allies and partners.

Agreements like COMCASA and BECA, signed between India and the US, he said “are blossoming” and are helping the navies towards better interoperability.

The Navy said in a statement that it closely cooperates with the US Navy on numerous issues including operational interactions like the Malabar exercise, training exchanges, exchange of White Shipping Information and subject matter experts in various fields, all of which are coordinated through the medium of Executive Steering Group (ESG) meetings conducted annually. Both the navies regularly make port calls at each other’s ports and have been “cooperating towards exploring new avenues for collaboration with a shared aim of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.”

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