Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, receives a briefing from Vice Admiral Srikant, AVSM, the commandant of India's National Defence College, Oct. 29. (U.S. Navy photo)

NEW DELHI - The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet visited India, Oct. 26-31, to expand the maritime partnership between the two countries, and emphasize the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

During a stop in New Delhi, Adm. John C. Aquilino met with India’s Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Karambir Singh; Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar; and National Security Military Advisor retired Lt. Gen. Khandare) along with other senior Indian Navy and government leadership to discuss the importance of increased interoperability and information sharing.

“Adm. Singh and I discussed ways to continue to partner and work toward meeting our nations’ common interests, to better integrate our capabilities, and strengthen our partnership,” said Aquilino.

While in India Aquilino toured the Information Fusion Centre, Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), an organization responsible for building a common situation picture for information-sharing. The IFC-IOR supports maritime domain awareness and strengthening maritime security throughout the region and beyond. The IFC-IOR also plays a critical role in preventing and combating maritime terrorism, piracy, human and contraband trafficking, illegal and unregulated fishing, arms running and poaching.

The Indian Ocean is an economic highway that drives global commerce with more than 75% of the world’s maritime trade. In addition, 50% of daily global oil consumption passes through the region. In view of its strategic location and home to a vast majority of world’s population, maritime domain awareness is necessary for the continued peace and prosperity for all nations in the Indo-Pacific.

“Freedom of navigation through the Indian Ocean and South China Sea is the reason all nations have been able to prosper. India and the United States are like-minded and both benefit from our shared cooperation, operations and exercises,” said Aquilino. “Exercise Malabar and Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) are both great examples of large multilateral events where the United States and India partner.”

Aquilino also spoke with students at the India National Defence College, which teaches national security and strategic studies to foster better understanding and mutual cooperation in international security to future decision-makers from India and 25 like-minded foreign countries.

During his visit, Aquilino stressed that the United States is willing to work with all nations that share common values and adhere to international laws in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. This visit is one in a series of U.S.-India engagements in 2019, including the inaugural India-U.S. tri-services humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) exercise Tiger Triumph scheduled later this year.