SINGAPORE – The first joint maritime exercise among the navies of Singapore, India and Thailand began in Port Blair, India, on Monday (Sept 16).

Singapore’s Defence Ministry said the exercise will last five days and involve five ships from the three nations and more than 500 participants.

The exercise comprises a shore phase held at Port Blair that involves planning and professional exchanges, and a sea phase in the Andaman Sea, where the navies will carry out manoeuvring, navigation, gunnery drills and boarding operations.

The sea phase will start on Wednesday.

The Defence Ministry said the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is taking part in the exercise with the Formidable-class frigate, RSS Tenacious.

At the opening ceremony in Port Blair, the RSN ship’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Chan, said the exercise underscores the responsibility of countries to collaborate to keep sea lines of communication open, as well as strengthens the ability of the three navies to work together.

The exercise also reaffirms the longstanding defence ties between Singapore, India and Thailand, the ministry added.

The joint exercise was announced in June 2018 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his keynote address at the 14th Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual defence forum whose participants include defence ministers, senior defence officials and academics.

Mr Modi had said India would start a new trilateral exercise with Singapore, in the hope that it would be extended to Asean countries.

The Singapore and Indian navies interact regularly through a range of activities, including staff talks and training courses. The 26th edition of the Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise concluded in May this year.