Against the backdrop of China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea and in the Asia-Pacific region, India has agreed to include Japan in the Indo-US Malabar naval exercise to be held in the Bay of Bengal in October this year.
Ahead of the Malabar, India and Australia will hold their bilateral naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal from September 11 to 21. Australia will participate with submarine HMAS Sheehan, tanker HMAS Sirius, and frigate HMAS Arunta, while India will field destroyer, a tanker and a frigate, besides helicopters and aircraft.
Earlier, China had protested against Japan’s participation in the 2007 Malabar exercise, which was held in the Bay of Bengal. Besides India and the US, the exercise had also expanded to include the Australian and Singaporean navies. In what was widely seen as appeasement of China, the UPA government had developed cold feet and restricted Malabar to a bilateral exercise between India and the US. Japan was, however, included in the exercise when it was organised in the north-western Pacific in 2009 and 2014.
Officials of the US, Japan and India have been exploring prospects of their joint participation in the 2015-Malabar exercise. Last month, a defence level meeting was organised in New Delhi, where Australia and Japan had reiterated their desire to participate in the regular Malabar exercises.
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s watch, the move to include Japan and Australia inclusion in the Malabar war games has acquired an added traction. The initiative gained momentum in the wake of the enhanced India-US cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, which was reflected in a separate India-US joint statement focused on the region during US President Barack Obama’s trip to India.
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