In this file photo, the Indian Navy frigate INS Tarkash (F50) transits alongside the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) earlier this year in the Indian Ocean. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Morgan K. Nall)

NEW DELHI - U.S. 7th Fleet and Indian Navy officials convened the 21st executive steering group on bilateral naval cooperation in New Delhi, Dec. 12.

Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer is co-chairing the two-day conference with Indian Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. G. Ashok Kumar. The leaders are reviewing progress of current initiatives and renewing their commitment to expanding exercises, exchanges and port visits that benefit both navies.

“Our naval partnership gets stronger from working together on initiatives throughout the year,” said Sawyer. “We share an enduring commitment to providing security across a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Held roughly annually since 1995, the conference builds on the most recent ESG, hosted in January by 7th Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and focused on enhancing cooperation in several areas, including carrier strike group operations, maritime domain awareness, at sea logistics, naval medicine, port visit opportunities and expanding exercise Malabar.

2018 was a busy year for both navies. At sea replenishments continued as part of the bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (LEMOA). In June, exercise Malabar was held off the coast of Guam, joined for the second time by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). Malabar was followed by the Indian Navy’s participation in exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) this summer off the Hawaiian Islands. In October, members of U.S. Navy P-8A and Indian Navy P-8I maritime patrol aircraft squadrons held a professional exchange in Goa, India.

“The U.S.-India partnership is more important today than ever before, “said Lt. Cmdr. Jerry Tzeng, 7th Fleet South Asia regional theater security officer. “Events like the ESG allow us to come together and forge a vision of how our forces will work together for the years to come.”

7th Fleet, which celebrated its 75th year in 2018, is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet. It provides security in an area of operations that spans more than 124 million square kilometers with 50-70 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft and approximately 20,000 Sailors.