Robert HARNEIS -TDO- ( FRANCE)- The Indian Navy has deployed its sole aircraft carrier to the Arabian Sea to monitor a joint military drill between China and regional rival Pakistan.
The INS Vikramaditya, with MiG-29K fighter jets on board, has arrived to cover a nine-day naval exercise 'Sea Guardians 2020,' in the northern part of the Arabian Sea.
Military sources said that the top officials from the Navy HQ were present on board. They also said that the ship was sent on a voyage with "a strategic objective," but did not disclose further details.
The carrier was reportedly testing out new hardware as well. A prototype of the HAL Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) has successfully taken off from the ship's flight deck and landed on it. By doing so, the Tejas has become the first Indian-built jet to land on an aircraft carrier.
China brought five big warships for its drill with Pakistan, including the guided-missile destroyer Yinchuan and the guided-missile frigate Yuncheng, while Islamabad sent two Zulfiquar-class frigates, among other vessels. Pakistan's Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi said that the joint maneuvers highlight "the long-term relationship and mutual trust" between the nations.
New Delhi has been tracking the increased activity of Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean. Last month, the Indian Navy reported that it had chased away a Chinese surveillance vessel after it had supposedly entered the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in September.
China is also absent from the list of more than 40 nations that India invited to participate in its major Milan 2020 naval drill next year. Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh explained in December that Beijing was not invited because India was calling only the "like-minded" countries.