US, India Drill Near Sunken ‘American Submarine’; Tiger-Triumph To Boost Ties Between 2 Largest Democracies

India and the US have kickstarted tri-service wargames on the Eastern SeaBoard, where, over decades ago, the Indian Navy sank an American submarine operated by the Pakistan Navy.

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The bilateral tri-service Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise named Tiger-Triumph-24 between both countries is scheduled on the Eastern Seaboard from 18 to 31 March.

The exercise would involve Indian Navy warships with helicopters and landing crafts, Indian Army personnel and vehicles, and Indian Air Force aircraft and helicopters, along with the Rapid Action Medical Team (RAMT). The US would be represented by US Navy warships and troops of the US Marine Corps and US Army.

While the harbor phase will be carried out at Visakhapatnam, the sea phase is set to be carried out at Kakinada. The exercise will be simulated to undertake HADR operations in a “friendly island nation,” where the troops will execute amphibious landing ops.

The exercise aims to develop interoperability for conducting HADR operations and refining Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to enable rapid and smooth coordination between the forces of both countries. For the Sea Phase, the warships and troops would sail and undertake Maritime, Amphibious, and HADR operations.

US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti and Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy Vice Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar expressed the view that ‘Tiger Triumph-24’ will strengthen the ties between the two largest democracies in the world.

Our relations have never been so strong, and we are accelerating them. We are India’s No. 1 partner in military exercises and No. 1 training partner, and the US and India are moving forward together,” the US Ambassador said.

The Commanding Officer of the participating USS Somerset, Captain Michel C. Brandt, described it as the largest bilateral exercise meant to promote mutual trust and cooperation. They would help in the exchange of best practices and building friendships.

Earlier, at an event marking the launch of Tiger Triumph, the Commanding Officer of INS Jalashwa, former USS Trenton Captain Sandeep Biswal, described the drills as a “continuation of Milan-2024,” which concluded recently in Visakhapatnam and was participated in by 50 navies.

The increased bonhomie between the two countries has reached a new level; however, in 1971, the Indian Navy sank PNS Ghazi, an American submarine leased by the Pakistan Navy, off Vishakhapatnam. PNS Ghazi went down with 93 souls on board.

The Eastern seaboard of India overlooks the Bay of Bengal, which lies on top of the sea lanes of communication that connect China, Japan, and Korea with the Middle East and Africa. Half of the world’s trade passes through these lanes.

The region is essential for the US policy of a ‘Free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,’ a euphemism for limiting China’s assertiveness.

It is the largest bay in the world, ensconced between India on the East and Indonesia on the West, while Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar are littoral countries. The region’s economic, diplomatic, and security importance attracts major powers in the East and the West (China, Japan, India, the US, and even Russia).

India-US Yudh Abhyas 2022 in Auli, Uttarakhand

Burgeoning Maritime Ties

In 2020, as tensions between India and China spiraled over the Ladakh border dispute, a US Navy battle group led by USS Nimitz conducted an exercise with the Indian Navy near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The signal was loud and clear to China.

The Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan, another aircraft carrier, and four warships had been operating in the contested South China Sea region to assert freedom of navigation and provide a deterrent to China’s expansionist plans.

The US Navy’s long-range anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance aircraft, P-8 Poseidon, carried out its maiden refueling from India’s strategic base in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Thereafter, it continued on its onward journey.

In 2022, the US Navy participated for the first time in Exercise Milan, organized by the Indian Navy. The US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft (MPRA) from Patrol Squadron (VP) 47 participated in Exercise Milan 2022 in the Bay of Bengal.

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The first Exercise Milan took place in 1995 with four navies and has taken place every two years since.

The Malabar series of maritime exercises commenced in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between the Indian Navy and the US Navy and has now been scaled up to include four navies in the Indo-Pacific Region.

India, Japan, the United States, and Australia held the 2023 edition of the Malabar exercise off the coast of Sydney, the first time the war games previously held in the Indian Ocean had taken place in Australia.

The US and India finally shed the baggage of the Cold War. Defense cooperation between the two countries is reaching its apogee, as India will soon have a hub to repair, refuel, resupply, and maintain US naval warships and aircraft.

Taking the first step in this direction, the US Navy signed a five-year master shipyard repair agreement (MSRA) with Larsen and Toubro (L&T) shipyard in Chennai in 2023 that will pave the way for repairing US naval warships here.

L&T shipyard in Kattupalli, near Chennai on the East Coast, has been undertaking voyage repairs of Military Sealift Command vessels and is now becoming a hub for repairs of US Navy ships.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • The author can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)
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