Naval cooperation between India and the United Kingdom is based on the long term strategic relationship between both countries. Both Navies have, over the years, undertaken bilateral activities such as training exchanges and technical cooperation. The bilateral exercise Konkan provides a platform for the two Navies to periodically exercise at sea and in harbour, so as to build interoperability and share best practices. The Konkan series of exercises started in 2004 and since then has grown in scale. The bilateral exercise is named after the western coastal region of India and is held in rotation by both the navies. Konkan-2018 was held from November 28 to December 6, 2018, off Goa with ships participating from both the navies. The harbour phase was held from November 28 to 30 which was followed by the sea phase from December 2 to 6. The Royal Navy was represented by HMS Dragon, a Type 45 class destroyer equipped with an integral Wildcat helicopter. Commander Micheal Carter Quinn, Commanding Officer of HMS Dragon, called on Rear Admiral Philipose Pynumootil, Flag Officer Commanding, Goa Naval Area, on arrival at Mormugao Port. The Indian Navy fielded INS Kolkata, the first ship of latest Kolkata class destroyers, equipped with integral Seaking and an Indian Navy submarine. In addition, Indian Navy maritime patrol aircraft, Dornier also participated in the exercise.
The regular Indian Navy-Royal Navy interaction over the years has resulted in an increase in the professional content of the bilateral exercise. The thrust of the exercise this year was on anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, visit board search and seizure (VBSS) and seamanship evolutions. Konkan-2018 also featured professional interactions and sports fixtures. Konkan series of exercises are aimed at deriving mutual benefit from each others’ experiences and is indicative of the continuing cooperation between the two countries. The inter-operability achieved over the years as a result of such exercises has proved to be operationally beneficial to both navies. The naval cooperation is a tangible symbol of the commitment of both nations in ensuring a positive climate at sea for enhancing strategic stability and promoting economic prosperity.
Whilst in Goa, HMS Dragon also contributed to broader India-UK ties. Representatives from India, Indian Navy and Indian industry joined their counterparts on board HMS Dragon to see how the systems on the ship enable delivery of the Royal Navy’s objectives. Sir Dominic Asquith KCMG, British High Commissioner to India stated:
“Exercise Konkan is a great opportunity to reinforce the India-UK defence partnership, deepening our understanding of how our Navies can work together to counter maritime threats. This sits alongside a wide range of UK activity in Indian Ocean – covering military, multilateral and commercial engagement.”
“In April this year, our Prime Ministers jointly stated that we shall “design, create and manufacture technologies ...and our security and military forces will share technologies, capabilities and equipment”. This exercise, and the events taking place on HMS Dragon whilst it is in port, offer both countries a chance to further support delivery of that ambition.”
On its way to the exercise, HMS Dragon intercepted a shipment of 3,048 kg of hashish in the Gulf along the ‘Hashish Highway’. This route is used to transport drugs from Afghanistan to the Middle East and East Africa and onward destinations.