Indian Participation Limited to Desk Duties at US-led Naval Exercise

Vice Adm. Gerald R. Beaman, commander US Third Fleet and commander of Combined Task Force for Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), accompanied by senior officers of nations participating in exercise RIMPAC, addresses the media during a press conference announcing the start of RIMPAC

Must read

Washington DC – For the first time, India is participating in the biannual multinational war exercise organized by the US known as RIMPAC, or Rim of the Pacific Exercise. However, India has not sent a ship to the exercise, instead sending a group of military personnel, assigned to what the commander of RIMPAC, US Vice Admiral Gerald Beaman, described as “desk duties.”

Describing the role of the Indian contingent, Beaman said, “Their only action would be taking part in a planning board and cell and perhaps briefing that to their component commander. But their action is going to be restricted to inside of a building, within office spaces.”

India was considering sending a vessel to participate in the exercise, but, according to Beaman, another commitment forced India to scuttle those plans. “The ship that they were looking at sending had other commitments that they were just unable to reschedule,” he said. Beaman expressed hope, however, that India would be able to participate fully in the next RIMPAC. “Regrettably, they were unable to participate this time, but we look forward to their participation in 2014,” he said.

The US government has organized RIMPAC every other year since 1971. RIMPAC describes it as “a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.” During the exercise, nations engage in a wide variety of maritime exercises that include simulated air defense, humanitarian assistance, and live-fire gunnery and missile targeting.

Beaman described three goals for this year’s RIMPAC: having a safe and sound exercise, protecting the environment, and meeting the goals and objectives of the 22 nations, so that they get a return on their investment. Beaman said that every nation pays the cost for operating its own fleet.

There are 22 nations participating in RIMPAC this year, the largest number ever. One notable exception, however, is China. “China was not invited,” Beaman said. “We do look forward to when we have the opportunity for more military-to-military engagements (with China) at the operational and tactical level which would take place in a RIMPAC exercise or an exercise of this nature. But unfortunately, that is not where the relationship is right now.”

China appeared to react with caution to its exclusion. The Global Times, a newspaper owned by the People’s Daily, which is owned and operated by the Chinese government, published an editorial saying, “Watching from afar, China is feeling uncomfortable. But it should be forgotten soon. The exercise is nothing but a big party held by the US, which is in a melancholy state of mind due to difficult realities.” The article later said that China should not get “entangled in the US’ moves.”

Beaman denied that the exercise was part of a plan to contain China or to form a coalition against it. “The RIMPAC exercise was never designed to form a formal coalition…. It is what we would refer to in the US as a pickup game, in that those that want to participate observe an exercise first and then they are allowed to participate, but it is by no means meant to try to formalize an institutional type of coalition,” Beaman said.

The US and India have been ramping up their military cooperation over the past few years. In early March, the two nations engaged in a two week bilateral military exercise in the deserts of Rajasthan. Many experts believe the enhanced cooperation has been undertaken with an eye towards containing China, as it further establishes itself as a global superpower.

Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise until Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. (IATNS)

More articles

Latest article