Below is a transcript of the press conference:
ADMIRAL MIKE GILDAY: Good afternoon, everybody. And thanks for – good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining us aboard one of the United States’ forward-deployed aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson. This is at the – here in the end of my trip to India, which an important strategic partner for the United States. As you’ve seen over the past year, the president and the prime minister have met, our secretaries of state have met, our secretaries of defense have met. The undersecretary of state was out here a week ago. And I’m following up with navy-to-navy talks with my counterpart and good friend, Admiral Singh.
Out here right now during Exercise Malabar, we’re operating very closely with the Indian navy. Our intention over the coming weeks/months/years is to operate much more closely with them. We feel we’re natural partners, not only with the nation of India but also with the Indian navy. We’ve been operating together for decades. And right now we’re on a very healthy glide slope to continue to increase that interoperability.
Malabar so far has been very successful. We’ll close out that – we’ll close out this exercise tomorrow. Of course, we also have the Australians and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force alongside. And so this is a great opportunity for four likeminded nations that are coming together, four highly technologically capable democracies coming together in the maritime to keep these maritime commons open, free, and safe.
And so, with that, I’m happy to take your questions.
Q: So the U.S. Navy has had some pretty interesting encounters with the Chinese navy in and around the Indian Ocean. Could you tell us a bit about that, the fact that China now has the biggest navy in the world, and what the U.S. is doing? Are you – are you spending more money to ramp up? What’s the plan?
ADM. GILDAY: So our focus is on capability, to make sure that we continue to be the most capable, lethal, ready, and available navy in the world. And so that’s why about a third of our fleet is at sea every single day and why we keep the majority of our fleet operating forward, to be able to operate with our partners and our allies to maintain a free and open not only Indo-Pacific, but global maritime commons, because everybody – every economy is dependent upon those maritime commons to be open in order to lift billions – lift the prosperity of billions of people.
Q: Sir, ahead of your visit to India you made a statement in which you had said that a free, inclusive Indo-Pacific region is something that all these Quad countries – (inaudible). So how significant and why is this statement very important, stressing on the point for a free Indo-Pacific region?
ADM. GILDAY: So –
Q: Is this because of China’s aggression in this particular area that the U.S. support has come, along with other countries?
ADM. GILDAY: So, with respect to the maritime, if we take a look at the – if we take a look at the flow in trade, if we take a look at the global economy – and really, right now the Indo-Pacific is the hub of that global economy and the engine, perhaps, of that global economy. So because 90 percent of the global commerce travels on the sea, because more than 99 percent of our internet traffic travels on transoceanic cables, it’s vitally important to every single – every single global citizen to be able to rely on these open maritime commons so that they and their children and their families can enjoy prosperity.
Q: (Inaudible) – China involved with – (inaudible) – Malabar – (inaudible) – coming together – (inaudible) – the military – (inaudible). How do you see China – (inaudible)?
And a follow-up one: How do you see the message being sent by Malabar to China?
ADM. GILDAY: There are dozens of exercises every year that are bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral, multilateral exercises that the United States participates in in the Indo-Pacific region. Malabar is one of them. It’s an important exercise, like every one of them is, but these are not intended to be provocative. Again, the intent is to operate side-by-side with likeminded navies, right, likeminded democracies, likeminded nations who want to keep those trade routes free and open, as I mentioned before.
That’s the real power of – power out here – (inaudible, background noise) – in the Bay of Bengal. We’re not pointing towards China. We’re focused on being more interoperable together to maintain those free and open maritime commons.
Q: So Malabar Exercise, thinking about – (inaudible) – can you just talk about the role that this India-U.S. partnership could really have in employing – (inaudible)?
ADM. GILDAY: So, first of all, with respect to Malabar, this is our 25th birthday with the Malabar Exercise. And so we should keep that in mind as one speaks about this exercise. And it is important from that regard, is that this exercise continues.
With respect to India, we consider India a strategic partner, as I said in my opening statement, and I think our navies continue to operate together in a very, very strong and positive way. And so we want to maintain those close relationships. We want to operate in a critical – a critical area, I believe, is the Indian Ocean region.
And so if we take a look at 60 percent of global travel traveling through – (background noise) – 60 percent of global trade travels through the Indian Ocean region alone. More than 90 percent of oil travels through the Indian Ocean region alone. And so we have to keep those – we have to keep that in mind. Any perturbation in those markets creates disturbance on a global scale, and so maintaining stability is absolutely first and foremost what we’re concerned about.
Q: (Inaudible.) Do you see the role of the Quad increasing in this area and more likeminded democracies joining you – (inaudible)?
ADM. GILDAY: I think that’s up to the nations of the Quad to discuss. But again, I go back to the fact that there are dozens and dozens of bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral, multilateral exercises a year. This is but one of them. And so if I consider the partnerships across the region and really across the globe, particularly among navies, it’s like a quilt, right? There doesn’t have to be one cookie-cutter answer. There can be many different forms of cooperation. And I think the fact that we’re cooperating, whether it’s bilateral or trilateral or quad, I think each nation should figure out for himself – him or herself what works best for their sovereign interests. And with respect to the United States, we welcome additional partners into these different security arrangements.
Q: We can expect – (inaudible) – to be part of Malabar – (inaudible) – last year?
ADM. GILDAY: Again –
ADM. GILDAY: Again, those discussions happen on an annual basis in terms of the way these exercises are designed. And so we tend to be – I would just say this. We tend to be very inclusive. That’s our – that’s our modus operandi, is to be inclusive and not exclusive.
Q: OK. (Inaudible) – the Quad are, obviously, different. (Inaudible.)
ADM. GILDAY: Was there a question about the French?
Q: No, AUKUS. It’s about AUKUS, sir. AUKUS is a (military alliance formation ?) and Quad is not. So if there was Quad, there was – (inaudible).
ADM. GILDAY: Well, I think when you take a look at AUKUS, it’s multidimensional in terms of the cooperation among the three countries. And so I wouldn’t just purely say that that’s a – one aspect of it’s military, but technology transfer in artificial intelligence, in quantum computing, there are other areas that go far beyond military applications to potentially dual applications to potentially solely commercial applications that I think brings our countries closer together to work cooperatively on.
Q: What is your shared vision for the – (inaudible)?
ADM. GILDAY: Can you say –
Q: What is your shared vision for the Indian Ocean?
ADM. GILDAY: The shared vision is that – for it to continue to be free and open, right? That we will continue – the United States Navy intends to continue to fly, to sail, and to operate in international waters and international airspace above, on, and under the sea.
We’ve seen how important it is to maintain that stability for the last 75 years, right? That’s a global framework that’s lifted billions from poverty. We want to – we want to sustain that. We want to sustain with those likeminded nations and navies that want to partner and contribute.
CDR. CHRISTENSEN: All right, everybody. Thank you so very much.
Q: Are you providing any technical assistance to Indian navy? Are you providing any technical assistance to Indian navy?
ADM. GILDAY: Yes, we are. We have – we have information exchanges and technical exchanges, and that’s getting more and more robust.
CDR. CHRISTENSEN: All right, everybody. Thank you so much.
Q: Thank you, sir.
Q: Thank you.
ADM. GILDAY: Thank you.
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