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World's biggest naval exercise underway, India among 22 nations in it

Last updated on: July 5, 2012 15:45 IST

World's biggest naval exercise underway, India among 22 nations in it

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RIMPAC 2012 also marks the first time non-US officers will command components of the combined task force during the exercise. But while there would be major Indian staff participation, India would not be fielding a vessel in the exercise, reports Aziz Haniffa

Vice Admiral Gerald Beaman, commander of the US Third Fleet and commander of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise that kicked off last week and will continue till August 7 in and around the Hawaiian Islands, told rediff.com in an interview that the US-India maritime exercises that are growing exponentially will be vital to stability and security in the region's sea-lanes in the coming years.

"It is going to be very significant and the main reason we are building these martime partnerships during the RIMPAC exercises is exactly why we want to maintain our relationship with India, to help provide stable and secure international commerce through the sea-lanes," he said.

Thus, Beaman reiterated, "Our relationship with India will remain significant during the coming years."

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Image: The Royal Australian Navy Adelaide-class guided-missile frigate HMAS Newcastle pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to support Rim of the Pacific exercises
Photographs: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach/Released

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22 nations, 42 ships, 6 submarines, more than 200 aircraft, 25,000 personnel...

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RIMPAC is the world's largest international maritime exercise. Twenty-two nations, 42 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in the biennial exercise.

This year's exercise includes units or personnel from Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States.

RIMPAC 2012 also marks the first time non-US officers will command components of the combined task force during the exercise.

The theme of RIMPAC 2012 is 'Capable, Adaptive, Partners', and according to the Pentagon, "Participating nations and forces will exercise a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of maritime forces."

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Image: The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz passes the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Nimitz is participating in the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise 2012, the world's largest international maritime exercise
Photographs: US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith W DeVinney/Released

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'India would not be fielding a vessel in this exercise'

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It said, "These capabilities range from disaster relief and maritime security operations to sea control and complex war-fighting. The relevant, realistic training syllabus includes amphibious operations; gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defence exercises as well as counter-piracy, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal and diving and salvage operations."

The Pentagon said, "RIMPAC 2012 will feature the first demonstration of a US Navy 'Great Green Fleet,' during which US surface combatants and carrier-based aircraft will test, evaluate and demonstrate the cross-platform utility and functionality of bio-fuels."

"This demonstration will also incorporate prototype energy efficiency initiatives such as solid state lighting, online gas turbine water-wash and energy management tools," it added.

Beaman told rediff.com that there would be major "Indian staff participation," but that India would not be fielding a vessel in this exercise because "I do know that the ship they were looking at sending had other commitments that they were just unable to reschedule."

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Image: Marines from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 prepare to man the rails as the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz enters Pearl Harbour
Photographs: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ryan J Mayes/Released

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22 nations but no China

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He said it had nothing to do with timing "or anything else, it was a decision strictly made by the Indian Navy and regrettably they were unable to participate at this time, but we look forward to their participation in 2014." But he reiterated that India's staff participation would be invaluable.

Beaman acknowledged that while the US naval manoeuvres and maritime exercises with India in recent years, have been the largest with any nation, the benefit this time around in terms of RIMPAC would be more of a coalition opportunity for both countries. "We do bilateral exercises. But in the case of RIMPAC, with 22 different nations participating, whether it's strictly through staff personnel or personnel and assets such as vessels, it expands that training value to incorporate employment of people and things in a coalition environment."

He noted that India had been "involved in planning," and that Indian personnel would "be on some of the boards and cells within our functional component commanders."

When pressed on the fact that there was no Chinese participation and that if both RIMPAC and the recent trilateral dialogues and naval manoeuvres and maritime exercises between US-Japan-India and also US-Australia-India, wouldn't necessarily lead to Chinese paranoia about its possible encirclement and containment, as leading US neo-conservatives have been pushing for in supporting the US-India strategic dialogue, Beaman said, "The RIMPAC exercises were never developed to represent any particular geographic area."

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Image: USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri Battleship Memorial
Photographs: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Robert Winn/Released

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'It was designed to bring together like-minded nations'

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He argued, "It was designed and developed to bring together those like-minded nations that wanted to participate in a maritime exercise to develop and foster relationships."

Beaman said, "I cannot speak to perceptions or intentions of countries that are not participating especially in a strategic level. These are things well beyond my pay grade and well beyond my scope of control."

Earlier, in a roundtable with journalists at the Foreign Press Center, Beaman said, "As commander of the combined task force for RIMPAC I can tell you, on the behalf of all the participants, we are excited to be a part of the world's largest international maritime exercise.

"RIMPAC 2012 is our Olympics of sorts. We're not competing against each other -- I like to refer to it more as a gathering of gold medalists from 22 different nations, and the game for us is RIMPAC 2012. It's a realistic and well-developed training programme .It's been developed over several months. It's a challenging programme that each country has contributed to and to meet their own individual goals and training objectives," he added.  

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Image: Sailors stand at parade rest as the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz passes the USS Missouri Battleship Memorial and the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor
Photographs: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Robert Winn/Released

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Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief part of RIMPAC

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Those of us participating fully understand the 70-80-90 rule where 70 per cent of the earth's surface is covered by water, 80 per cent of the world's population lives on or near the coastline, and 90 per cent of international commerce travels via the sea. And so capable maritime forces help ensure stability and prosperity around that world, and RIMPAC 2012 helps those participating nations improve that capability."

Beaman said, "For the first time, RIMPAC 2012, is incorporating a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise, and we're using it for certification of expeditionary forces to respond to foreign disasters that's a crisis response adaptive force package."

He said the Indian staff personnel participation, as are several other countries constitute "a big part in the training to communicate and coordinate among a force that includes many nations. So having staff personnel from so many nations improves the quality of the training for all."

Beaman acknowledged that China was not invited, but hastened to add, "We continually seek to improve our military-to-military relationship with China. (But) Right now, as I suggested earlier, that effort toward that mil-to-mil effort -- that effort is taking place at the strategic level. And so we do look forward to when we have the opportunity for more military-to-military engagements 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."

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Image: Sailors participate in mooring the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz as it pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in support of Rim of the Pacific 2012
Photographs: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach/Released
Tags: RIMPAC , China , Beaman

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'Not tryring to formalise an institutional type of coalition'

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He also asserted that RIMPAC was not designed as a formal coalition on the lines of a NATO sans China. "I want to make sure that everyone understands the RIMPAC exercise was never designed to form a formal coalition. As I suggested earlier, it has grown in size from the first RIMPAC exercise in 1971 in which three countries participated, to here we are in 2012 where we have 22 nations."

Beaman said, "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 formalise an institutional type of coalition. It's just whoever like-minded nations trying to get training value out of working in a coalition."

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Image: The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Princeton pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbour-Hickam to support the Rim of the Pacific 2012 exercise
Photographs: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach/Released
Tags: RIMPAC , NATO , OBeaman , China

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