You wait 16 years for the Royal Navy to visit your island chain… and then two ships call inside ten months.
2023 began with HMS Tamar calling on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands – about 600 miles east of the mainland.
And the year nears its end with HMS Spey following in the footsteps of her sister, sailing into the archipelago’s capital, Port Blair.
It’s Spey’s first visit to India – indeed her maiden foray this far west on her five-year Indo-Asia-Pacific mission in conjunction with Tamar, reinvigorating Britain’s involvement in the security and prosperity of the vast region.
Berthed at Naval Component Command (NAVCC) Headquarters on the outskirts of Port Blair, Spey welcomed Indian Military officials were welcomed onboard Spey for planning with their Royal Navy counterparts.
And a discussion on maritime security challenges and priorities across the Bay of Bengal as part of the wider UK’s commitment to regional security and the strengthening of ties was hosted by the British High Commission and UK’s Defence Advisor to India, Brigadier Nick Sawyer, with senior Indian Navy officers led by Rear Admiral Sandeep Sandhu, Chief of Staff Andaman and Nicobar Command, and Commodore Sugreev.
“We deeply value our relationship with India in a shared endeavor to confront those who challenge the rules-based system and ensure peace and prosperity on and from the sea,” Brig Sawyer said.
“The visit of a sixth Royal Navy ship to India within a year is the clearest demonstration of that as well as the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt in action.”
In addition, the River-class patrol ship HMS Spey hosted a number of Indian Navy personnel during a link-up with an Indian Naval patrol vessel off the islands to build on the close ties between the two navies – and enhance co-operation at a ship-to-ship level.
Once in port, Spey’s 50 crew took the opportunity to explore the islands’ rich culture and diversity, sampling the incredible flora and fauna in the national park and swimming alongside rich marine life at many of the idyllic beaches and coves.
Lieutenant Commander Bridget Macnae, HMS Spey’s Executive Officer, said both navies benefited from the link-ups at sea and ashore.
“Frequent port visits and multilateral exercises between the Indian Navy and Royal Navy continue to support our ever-expanding relationship and operational interaction and cooperation,” she added.
“The UK and India firmly believe in – and promote – the rules-based international system; we share an interest in upholding international maritime law and supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Before Spey and Tamar, you have to go back to frigate HMS Montrose in 2007 for a Royal Navy warship visiting the Andaman and Nicobar Islands… and the early 1990s before that.