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India, Russia to hold joint naval exercise in Gulf of Aden

A file photo of INS Tabar

Moscow (PTI): With India and Russia bolstering their naval armada in the Gulf of Aden, the two countries would hone in on anti sea-piracy operations in the upcoming INDRA-2009 joint naval exercise in the Indian Ocean in January next year.

"A task force from the Pacific Fleet, led by the Varyag missile cruiser, will leave Vladivostok in December and set sail for the Indian Ocean to participate in joint drills with the Indian navy," Fleet spokesman Capt 1st Rank Roman Martov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

This is the fourth such exercise since 2003 under the inter-services cooperation agreement between the two countries. New Delhi and Moscow had held complex wargames in the sea of Japan last year.

Another naval task force of the Russian Northern Fleet led by 'Pyotr Veliky' (Peter-the-Great) nuclear-powered missile cruiser, also known as 'killer of aircraft carriers', will also join the drill.

Besides counter-piracy, other features of the joint exercise would be maritime law, counter-terrorism, and anti-drug smuggling.

The exercises are being held in the backdrop of steep rise in incidents of sea-piracy off the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden. Both India and Russia have a naval presence in the regions’ waters.

But now Russia will deploy more warships off the East African coast to combat pirate attacks on merchant vessels and ensure security of shipping lanes, the Russian Naval Chief announced Thursday.

Russia already has its missile frigate 'Neustrashimy' (Intrepid) deployed in the area, which had last week prevented several hijack attempts by the Somali pirates, acting in coordination with the British Royal naval ship HMS Cumberland.

India is also considering dispatching of more warships to join the lone stealth frigate INS Tabar in the area.

"Following the exercises, the Russian warships will pay friendly visits to several ports in India and China," the Pacific Fleet spokesman said.

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