The 6 ships passing through the South China Sea; INS Kolkata is in the foreground

The navies of the US, Philippines and Japan also participated in the manoeuvres

Two Indian Navy ships were part of a flotilla also comprising vessels from the navies of Japan, Philippines and the US that sailed through the South China Sea on May 2-8.

In a statement, the US Navy's 7th Fleet noted that the Indian Navy destroyer INS Kolkata and tanker INS Shakti sailed with two Japanese warships and one vessel each from the US and Philippines. Significantly, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force deployed its helicopter carrier JS Izumo, one of its largest vessels, for the manoeuvres.

The 7th Fleet statement said, “The ships conducted formation exercises, communication drills, passenger transfers and held a leadership exchange aboard JS Izumo”.

“The opportunity of a multi-sail with US Navy and regional partners was a great experience. In addition to building mutual understanding and trust, it also served as a way to enhance peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Rear Admiral Hiroshi Egawa of the JMSDF said.

In recent years, the US and its allies, such as the UK and Australia, have increased deployments to the South China Sea even as China has claimed sovereignty over several islands in the water body.

In addition to the sail-together in the South China Sea, the Indian Navy and JMSDF conducted an anti-submarine warfare exercise in Goa in April. P-3 Orion aircraft from Japan trained with the Indian Navy's P-8I maritime patrol aircraft to boost interoperability between the two forces.