The navies of Iran, China, and Russia launched a three-day joint maritime drill on Friday in the northern Indian Ocean designed to signal a “common future” between the three nations, Iranian Rear Admiral Mostafa Tajoldini told Iranian state television.
The naval drills will take place across a 6,600-square-mile stretch of the northern Indian Ocean including the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, according to reports this week by Iranian state media.
“The purpose of this drill is to strengthen security and its foundations in the region, and to expand multilateral cooperation between the three countries to jointly support world peace, maritime security and create a maritime community with a common future,” Tajoldini told Iranian state TV on January 21 hours after the exercises began.
“Strengthening the security of international maritime trade, combating piracy and maritime terrorism, exchanging intelligence in the field of maritime rescue missions, and exchanging operational and tactical experience are among the objectives of the 2022 Marine Security Belt exercise,” Iranian state-run news outlet Press TV reported on January 21, referring to the joint military drill by its official name.
The navies simulated scenarios in the early morning hours of January 21 including “a pirate seizure of two vessels,” Tajoldini told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
“Naval and aerial units of the three countries liberated two merchant ships hijacked by pirates in international waters,” as part of the drill, according to the Iranian rear admiral.
The three navies practiced specific tactics during Friday’s exercise such as “rescuing burning vessels … shooting at specific targets, [and] shooting at air targets at night,” according to Press TV.
Iran, China, and Russia first held joint maritime drills in the northern Indian Ocean in 2019. Friday’s launch of coordinated naval exercises between the three nations marks their third such joint venture. Tehran’s participation in the 2022 Marine Security Belt Exercise signals an “improvement of the Islamic Republic’s standing in the world,” Iranian Rear Admiral Tajoldini told IRNA on January 21.
Iran’s 15-year-long bid to gain full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) came to fruition in September 2021 when the security bloc announced it had formally accepted Tehran’s application to become a full member.
“The accession process is expected to take up to two years to complete,” the Middle East Institute noted of Iran’s SCO admittance at the time.
Observers consider the SCO an eastern counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO.). Russia and China lead the SCO as a security alliance that also organizes economic and political cooperation between its member states. The SCO has limited Iran’s access to the SCO since 2005 by granting the Islamic Republic a lesser “observer” status. Iran first applied for full membership to the SCO in 2008.