On the face of it, a plane landed, was refuelled and then, took off. What makes the refuelling significant is that it was an American plane, a P-8 Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft, landing in the Andaman Islands as the face-off between the Indian and Chinese armies continues in Ladakh.
The refuelling, on September 25, is just something both countries agreed to do when they signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement or LEMOA, a ‘foundational’ pact. But the event, not played up at all, is a message in this time of no-war-no-peace as Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, the air force chief, calls it, a message that India has many good friends.
Australia’s likely participation in the Malabar naval exercise is a similar message. The Malabar exercise is likely in about a month’s time and this time, Australian warships will exercise with Indian, Japanese and American warships in the Indian Ocean. An official announcement is likely very shortly.
But the United States and Australia apart, several major exercises are being planned with friendly countries.
* India and France will be involved in Exercise Varuna, a naval effort between October 10 and 15.
* India has also reached out to ASEAN countries. SITMEX, will be a four-day naval exercise with Singapore and Thailand, beginning November 17.
* SIMBEX, will involve India and Singapore between the 21st and 23rd of November. Both will happen in the Andaman Seas.