New Delhi: The UK's largest warship HMS Queen Elizabeth and its strike task group has sailed into the Indian Ocean and will carry out a mega wargame with the Indian Navy as the aircraft carrier began a 40-nation tour aimed at demonstrating Britain's commitment for an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the deployment of the carrier strike group marks the start of "a new era of defence cooperation with allies in India and the Indo-Pacific."
Indian military officials said a series of complex drills will be carried out as part of the wargame that is expected to take place around July 26.
It is HMS Queen Elizabeth's first operational deployment. The warship has a fleet of F35B stealth fighter jets onboard and is accompanied by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine and 14 naval helicopters.
The warships are expected to visit the South China Sea region as part of the tour.
"By visiting 40 countries and working alongside our partners, the UK is standing up for democratic values, seizing new trading opportunities and tackling the shared threats we face together," Foreign Secretary Raab said.
The British high commission in India said the carrier strike group (CSG) 2021, led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, has sailed into the Indian Ocean Region after transiting the Suez Canal.
"Following a series of successful engagements and operations in the Mediterranean it is now sailing east across the Indian Ocean towards India. It will then meet with ships from the Indian Navy to conduct routine maritime exercises," the high commission said in a statement.
It said the deployment represents the UK's commitment to deepening diplomatic, economic and security ties with India and in the Indo-Pacific region.
"It demonstrates both the UK's support for the freedom of passage through vital trading routes and for a free, open and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific," it added.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that described the deployment of the CSG as a "major moment" for the UK's defence.
"The group is sailing the Indian Ocean and will shortly conduct exercises with the Indian Navy, building on our already strong partnership with an important ally and friend," he said.
"The deployment illustrates the UK's enduring commitment to global defence and security, strengthening our existing alliances and forging new partnerships with like-minded countries as we face up to the challenges of the 21st century," Wallace was quoted as saying in the statement.
British High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, said the deployment of the carrier strike group is a powerful demonstration of the UK's commitment to the security of India and the Indo-Pacific.
"Its arrival follows the UK's first International Liaison Officer joining the Indian Navy's Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region in Gurugram," he said.
"Today marks another step towards delivering the ambition set out jointly by our prime ministers in the 2030 Roadmap, bringing our countries, economies and people closer together," Ellis said.
Last month, the UK posted a liaison officer at the Indian Navy's Information Fusion Centre (IFC) that has emerged as a key hub in tracking movements of ships and other developments in the Indian Ocean region.
The UK joined a select group of countries such as the US, Australia, Japan and France to depute officials at the Gurgaon-based facility.
The Indian Navy established the IFC-IOR in 2018 to effectively keep track of the shipping traffic as well as other critical developments in the region under a collaborative framework with like-minded countries.