India joins Iran-Russia naval drill, China to follow
First major naval drill since 2019 hosted by Iran with participation of regional countries
The Indian navy has joined a naval drill that began Tuesday between Iran and Russia in the North Indian Ocean while China is also expected to soon take part.
Iran's Navy Chief Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi made the announcement and hailed India as "one of the powerful naval forces in the region."
Khanzadi said China, which took part in a joint naval exercise with Iran and Russia in December 2019, will join the maneuvers after Chinese New Year’s celebrations.
He said the objective of the exercise is to "ensure collective security in the region and in the northern Indian Ocean."
Earlier, Amir Gholamreza Tahani, spokesman for the exercise, said flexibility of the maneuvers makes it easy for regional countries to join the drill.
Besides the naval forces of Moscow and Tehran, aviation units of the Iranian army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are also taking part in the exercise -- Iran-Russia Maritime Security Belt Combined Exercise.
Tahani said Monday that cooperation between Tehran and Moscow aims to “secure the maritime trade” and “fight piracy and maritime terrorism.”
He said Moscow dispatched a destroyer, logistic warship and a helicopter for the exercises being conducted in an area that spans 17,000 kilometers (10,501 miles) in the North Indian Ocean.
Tactical drills being performed include rescuing a damaged vessel, freeing an attacked vessel, shooting at precise targets and shooting at air targets.
Participants also seek to exchange information about maritime rescue operations and share operational and tactical experiences in maritime security.
It is the second major joint military drill between Moscow and Tehran since December 2019 when the two countries, along with China, held a four-day naval exercise in southeastern Iran.
The growing military cooperation between Iran and Russia comes at a sensitive time with Tehran and Washington locked in a stalemate regarding the 2015 nuclear accord.
Tensions between the two countries continue to simmer with both sides beefing up military presence in the Persian Gulf, close to Iran's territorial waters.
Iran's Army and the IRGC have conducted a series of drills, involving ballistic missiles, drones and submarines in recent weeks amid heightened tensions in the region.
Interestingly, the joint military exercise between Moscow and Tehran come days after Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dispatched a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
*Zehra Nur Duz contributed to this report from Ankara
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