Sri Lanka welcomes Indian Ocean naval drill

PORT BLAIR, India, Sept 4, 2007 (AFP) – A massive naval drill opens in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday with warships from the United States and four other nations flexing their muscle in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Twenty-seven ships and submarines from the United States, Australia, Japan and Singapore will join seven from host India off the Andamans archipelago in the Bay of Bengal for the six-day manoeuvres, officials said.

It will be one of the biggest ever peacetime joint military exercises, including anti-piracy, reconnaissance and rescue missions besides honing inter-operability or coordination skills between the navies of the four nations, Indian Navy spokesman Vinay Garg said.

The exercise, stretching from India’s eastern coast to the Andamans near Indonesia, will include super-carriers USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk of the US Navy’s Pacific fleet and India’s lone aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat.

The international exercises, codenamed Malabar, are facing stiff resistance from anti-US communist allies of India’s ruling Congress party, who denounced them as proof of “India’s growing subservience to the United States.”

The communists, who prop up the government in parliament, also oppos