After an intense sea phase of SIMBEX, Singapore India Maritime Bilateral Exercise in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal, ships of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) arrived Visakhapatnam on 16 November. In what could be termed an unprecedented level of interoperability between the two navies – ships, submarines and aircraft of India and Singapore – undertook multi-dimensional exercises at sea with perhaps very high degree of complexity. After the initial harbour phase at Port Blair, the exercises witnessed action at sea and have now shifted gears to the second harbour phase at Visakhapatnam which is home to the Eastern Naval Command (ENC) of the Indian Navy.
Few in 1994 would have predicted that the maiden basic Anti-Submarine Warfare exercises that were held that year between navies of India and Singapore would transform into one of the most high level maritime exercises in the years to come and sustain itself for quarter of a century – a milestone like no other. SIMBEX marked its 25th anniversary and is currently underway. This year, the exercises are being conducted in four phases, two each in harbour at Port Blair and Visakhapatnam and two sea phases in the Bay of Bengal.
Phase 1 of the 25th edition of SIMBEX has already witnessed over a dozen ships and submarines and a never seen before number of weapon firings at sea. The action now shifts to the harbour activities at Visakhapatnam before they kick off the intensive Second Phase of the exercise. In addition to the number of Operational Conferences towards planning and preparing for the final sea phase scheduled from 19 to 21 November, friendly Volleyball and Basketball matches would also be played between the two navies. The highlight of the sporting activity is the participation of personnel from RSN in the Vizag-Navy Marathon on 18 November off RK Beach. It is a signature event in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Visakhapatnam’s largest community event with participants from armed forces, corporate sector, government sector, educational institutions including international participants. The event attracts a large scale tourist population for participation from various states and countries. Personnel from the RSN would be participating in the 10K Friendship Run. Personnel from Singapore Navy also savoured the local culture and cuisine during their stay at Visakhapatnam.
To mark the historic Silver Jubilee of SIMBEX, Naval Chiefs from both the participating countries would also be in Visakhapatnam. Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Chief of the Naval Staff of the Indian Navy would host Rear Admiral Lew Chuen Hong, the Chief of Navy of the RSN at the SIMBEX Silver Jubilee Dinner on 18 November.
On 19 November, the Silver Jubilee Commemoration Ceremony would be held at Naval Dockyard, Visakhapatnam. In a symbol of growing trust and comfort levels between the two navies, the event will witness unveiling of the SIMBEX logo, and release of commemorative Indian Special Postage Cover and Singaporean Postage Stamp. The simultaneous release of Postal Cover and Stamp by Indian and Singaporean Postal department respectively also highlights the significance of this historic occasion between the two nations. Earlier, in June this year, the Prime Ministers of both – India and Singapore, on the sidelines of the Shangri La Dialogue held at Singapore had remarked that they looked forward to the 25th and enhanced edition of bilateral annual naval exercise SIMBEX.
The high intensity final sea phase of the exercises is scheduled to commence on 19 November and will be marked by the presence of Defence Ministers of both India and Singapore. This in fact would be the first such occasion, when such high level ministerial level presence from both countries would take place at sea.