New Delhi: Amid estranged ties with China, India and the United States are conducting two military exercises in the Indian Ocean with allies Japan and Australia. The military exercises come amid ongoing tensions between the US and China, that increased after the former rejected China’s claims of sovereignty in the disputed South China Sea calling it illegal. Also Read - Navy Deploys More Frontline Warships, Submarines in Indian Ocean Amid Border Tensions With China

“We want to deter against coercive behaviour by the Chinese in the South China Sea. We know it has been going on for years. China has been bullying, coercing and compelling smaller countries in the region,” said US Secretary of Defense Mark T Esper earlier today. Also Read - Stuff of Nightmares! Researchers Discover a 14-Legged Giant Sea Cockroach in The Indian Ocean

“As we speak today, USS Nimitz is conducting a combined exercise with Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean, demonstrating our shared commitment to stronger naval cooperation and support to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Esper said. Also Read - China Warns to Hit Back as Donald Trump Removes Hong Kong Special Status Over 'Oppressive' Security Law

The passing military exercise or PASSEX involved the supercarrier, USS Nimitz, returning from the South China Sea as it passes through the Indian Ocean Region. The exercise is normally undertaken whenever such an opportunity arises, unlike the pre-planned maritime drills. India had earlier conducted a similar exercise with France and Japan in the seas.

“I want to highlight our increased defence cooperation with India, one of the all-important defence relationships of 21th century. We conducted our first-ever joint military exercise last November,” he added.

Speaking on the now-subsided clash between India and China, Esper said, “We are obviously monitoring the situation between India and China very closely, what’s happening along the Line of Actual Control and we are very pleased to see both sides are trying to de-escalate the situation.”

“China’s military exercise on & around disputed features are apparently inconsistent with its commitment set out in 2002 declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea. While we hope CCP will change its ways, we must be prepared for an alternative,” the US Secretary of Defense asserted.

Notably, the US has always opposed China’s expansionist agenda over the South China Sea, sending warships through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy is set to deploying its MiG-29K fighter jets to rotate around the sensitive regions in the country’s northern parts despite the relief of escalated border tensions with China in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.