At the time when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was holding a bilateral meeting his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the SCO Defence Ministers’ meeting in Moscow, the Indian and Russian Navies conducted a bilateral exercise INDRA NAVY-2020 in the Bay of Bengal. INDRA NAVY-2020 must be seen as a strong signal to China as Russia continues to plays a crucial role between India and China.
The 11th edition of exercise INDRA NAVY, a biennial bilateral maritime exercise between Indian Navy and Russian Navy, was conducted in the Bay of Bengal on 4-5 September 2020. Initiated in 2003, INDRA NAVY epitomises the long-term strategic relationship between the two Navies. Whilst the exercise was being undertaken in the Bay of Bengal, Rajnath Singh was in to Moscow on the invitation of Defence Minister of the Russian Federation, General Sergei Shoigu to discuss bilateral cooperation and issues of mutual interest and commemoration of the 75th anniversary of victory in World War II.
This exercise has matured over the years with increase in scope, complexity of operations, and level of participation. The primary aim of exercise INDRA NAVY-20 is to further consolidate inter-operability built up by the two Navies over the years and also to enhance understanding and procedures for multi-faceted maritime operations. The scope of this edition includes wideranging and diverse activities across the spectrum of maritime operations. Due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, INDRA NAVY-20 would be undertaken in a ‘non-contact, at sea only’ format.
The Indian Navy was represented by guided missile destroyer Ranvijay, indigenous frigate Sahyadri and fleet tanker Shakti, along with their integral helicopters. Sahyadri was redeployed to provide assistance to MT New Diamond, which has caught fire off the coast of Sri Lanka. The Russian Federation Navy was represented by destroyer Admiral Vinogradov, destroyer Admiral Tributs and fleet tanker Boris Butoma of the Pacific Fleet, based at Vladivostok.
The exercise aimed at enhancing interoperability, improving understanding and imbibing best practices between the two navies, and involved surface and antiaircraft drills, firing exercises, helicopter operations, seamanship evolutions etc. The last edition of the exercise was conducted off Visakhapatnam in December 2018.Exercise INDRA NAVY-20 further boosts mutual confidence and cooperation between the two Navies and reinforces the longstanding bond of friendship between the two countries, in addition sending the required message to China in the Maritime domain.