Britain to send largest warship, carrier strike group to Indian Ocean next year

The deployment comes against the backdrop of growing interest in the Indo-Pacific in Europe amid concerns over China’s increased assertiveness
HMS Queen Elizabeth. The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth, which can carry up to 40 aircraft, was commissioned in late 2017 but next year’s deployment will mark its maiden voyage in international waters.(Reuters)
HMS Queen Elizabeth. The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth, which can carry up to 40 aircraft, was commissioned in late 2017 but next year’s deployment will mark its maiden voyage in international waters.(Reuters)
Updated on Dec 07, 2020 05:35 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

The UK is sending its largest warship, aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, and its strike task group to the Indian Ocean early next year for its maiden voyage, with London describing the move as the country’s “most ambitious deployment for two decades”.

The deployment comes against the backdrop of growing interest in the Indo-Pacific in Europe amid concerns over China’s increased assertiveness, and the UK’s own concerns over Chinese actions in its former colony of Hong Kong, which London says have undermined the agreement on leaving the region unchanged until 2047.

Also read | Britain gets ready for roll-out of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine this week

“Next year, HMS Queen Elizabeth will lead a British and allied task group on the UK’s most ambitious deployment for two decades, its route will encompass the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and East Asia,” a British high commission spokesperson said.

“It is a natural choice for the inaugural deployment of the carrier strike task group to include a visit to the Indian Ocean and East Asia. The deployment is a sign of the UK’s commitment to regional security,” the spokesperson added.

France, Germany and the Netherlands have unveiled their strategies for the Indo-Pacific, which dovetail with India’s commitment to freedom of navigation and a rules-based order, and some experts see the deployment of Britain’s carrier task group as an effort to reinforce its relevance amid Brexit.

The British mission’s spokesperson described the Indo-Pacific as “increasingly important for the UK, as it is at the centre of global economic growth and a region of increasing geostrategic importance”. The UK has a “range of enduring security interests in the region”, the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also described the UK and India as “natural partners in defence” that “already have high levels of interoperability”, as is evident from bi-annual exercises involving all three services and their joint work on the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.

The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth, which can carry up to 40 aircraft, was commissioned in late 2017 but next year’s deployment will mark its maiden voyage in international waters. The carrier task group is expected to conduct joint exercises with the US Navy and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, though it couldn’t immediately be confirmed if there are plans for similar drills with the Indian Navy.

The British mission’s spokesperson said the Royal Navy and the Indian Navy have “strong bilateral ties” and training together under the Konkan Exercise, a bilateral drill held biennially.

“The strong maritime relationship with India and other regional partners, regular deployments and a permanent naval presence provides the ability for the UK government to react quickly to a variety of emerging security and humanitarian situations with partners, as well as upholding international maritime law in support of the rules-based international system,” the spokesperson said.

The UK has a long-standing presence in the Gulf and Indian Ocean through Operation Kipion, which now involves the permanent presence of seven warships at any time, typically one frigate or destroyer supported by a tanker and a four-strong squadron of mine-hunters with a support ship.

The British side also pointed to the Royal Navy’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean, where HMS Dragon warship seized drugs with a street value of more than £200 million during operations last year. These operations are backed by maritime information exchanges such as a white shipping agreement with India covering the whole Indian Ocean.

Sameer Patil, fellow for international security studies at Gateway House, said the British naval deployment should be seen in light of two factors – the UK’s efforts to remain relevant amid its exit from the European Union, and Britain’s concerns over China’s crackdown on Hong Kong.

“The UK has a key presence in the Indian Ocean through the Diego Garcia base that is leased to the US. The British naval deployment shows the importance of the region, especially when other European countries are taking the lead in this area,” he said.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon.

    In dire warning, UN chief says oceans in state of ‘emergency’

    A long-delayed conference on how to restore the faltering health of global oceans kicked off in Lisbon on Monday, with the head of the UN saying the world's seas are in crisis. "Today we face what I would call an ocean emergency," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told thousands of policymakers, experts and advocates at the opening plenary, describing how seas have been hammered by climate change and pollution. Humanity depends on healthy oceans.

  • An aerial view shows the damage to the roof of adjacent buildings after a tornado ripped through the southwestern seaside city of Zierikzee.

    Rare tornado kills one in Netherlands

    A tornado ripped through a southwestern Dutch city on Monday, killing at least one person and injuring seven others in the first fatal twister to hit the country for three decades. The whirlwind left a trail of destruction through the seaside city of Zierikzee, blowing the roofs off homes and toppling trees onto cars, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (on screen) addresses G7 leaders and representatives of the European Union during their working session at Elmau Castle, Germany, on Monday.

    ‘As long as it takes’: G7 backs Ukraine

    The Group of Seven nations on Monday vowed to stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes”, promising to tighten the squeeze on Russia's finances with new sanctions that include a proposal to cap the price of Russian oil. The G7 countries said they had also pledged or were ready to grant up to $29.5 billion for Ukraine. “It's useless to hope for decency and humanity from Russia,” Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Telegram.

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) during a meeting with Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, in Schloss Elmau, Germany on Monday. (ANI)

    India-Canada ties: Modi, Trudeau hold talks at G7 summit

    India Prime Minister Narendra Modi held his first in-person bilateral meeting with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau in over four years in Germany on Monday. A tweet from India's prime minister's office noted the two leaders “took stock of India-Canada friendship and discussed ways to further strengthen it across various sectors”. This was the first time they held such discussions sitting across from each other since Trudeau visited India in February 2018.

  • Smoke rises from a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on Monday. (REUTERS)

    G7 countries plan to impose ‘price caps’ on Russia’s oil exports

    In a move that may have an impact on the terms of the growing Russia-India energy partnership - India has enhanced import of Russian energy since the war in Ukraine began as energy prices spiral - the G7 countries are considering imposing “price caps” on Russia's oil to dilute revenue inflows to Moscow. The West has alleged that these inflows are helping Russian President Vladimir Putin finance the war in Ukraine.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, June 28, 2022