As part of the burgeoning Indo-US relationship, the two Malabar-2007 joint naval exercises have been unprecedented in many ways. The Malabar exercises were conceived and have been conducted since 1992, as a purely bilateral event. The Malabar exercises of April 2007 held in the western Pacific first took Japan into its fold and then in September 2007 was further expanded in scope and participation to include Australia and Singapore as well. This turned it into a mammoth war-game in Bay of Bengal involving 26 warships from five nations, and encompassing virtually every facet of naval operations..
— Trilok Singh (@beingtrilok) July 1, 2017
The Malabar is an annual exercise, which aims to achieve deeper military ties among the three navies in the strategically-critical Indo-Pacific region which is a mega naval war exercise, will include India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, Japan’s largest warship JS Izumo and US super-carrier Nimitz.
The 10-day drills in the Bay of Bengal include warships from Japan, the US and India, which has deployed its largest-ever fleet.
“We hope that this kind of relationship and cooperation will not be directed against third country and that it will be conducive to the regional peace and security,” said a spokesperson for the Chinese government at a time when the Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a stand-off at the Sikkim border.
Moreover, The Malabar exercises started out as India-US drills in 1992 but have included Japan every year from 2014. Australia was refused permission to join this year because of fears of antagonising China. The exercises are held in the Indian Ocean as well as close to the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims as its own.
The disputed area lies in a part referred to as the “tri-junction” of India, Tibet and Bhutan. India has said the new road is a serious security concern because it lies near the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a thin strip of land that connects India to its seven northeastern states.
The tension was somewhat defused in Germany where Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines the G-20 summit. Despite China stating aggressively that there would be no bilateral meeting -India retaliated that it hadn’t asked for one – the leaders talked informally at a session of BRICS which groups the economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Moreover, Malabar-2007 has also for the first time generated a lot of international interest. Considering the participation of India – a nation that prides itself on its ‘non-aligned’ credentials – it has raised many questions: Are such exercises the precursors to the formation of a military alliance in Asia, thereby signifying the beginnings of a new Cold War? Within the Indian polity itself, a section has questioned India’s “independent foreign policy” and cast doubts on whether the joint exercises like Malabar are underpinned by legitimate security imperatives? These add on to the existing doubts of some policymakers in India: Do naval forces derive tangible ‘operational’ benefits out of these exercises? Or are these merely diplomatic ventures? This commentary is an attempt to address these issues.
These exercises also help nations to fill capability ‘voids’ of their maritime forces. To meet its security needs, India continues to rely upon countries with an advanced defence technology base for a major part of its military hardware. For its navy, this is an opportunity to ascertain the parameters of potential acquisitions and assess their worthiness in a nearreal ‘combat’ scenario, rather than in a ‘conditioned’ environment created to demonstrate their ‘best’ performances.
Consequently, Malabar 2017, a joint mid-summer exercise aimed at addressing shared threats to maritime security in the India-Asia Pacific region. The exercise involving naval ships, aircraft and personnel from the three countries will feature in both ashore and at-sea training off India’s eastern coast in the Bay of Bengal..
“Indian, Japanese and US maritime forces look forward to working together again to build upon and advance their working relationship to collectively provide security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region”. Hope For the best..