India, Japan and United States kicked off the Malabar naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal on Monday. The tri-lateral naval exercise is the widest in scope than all its previous editions and will continue for 10 days. Here is all that you should know about the exercise
When did the drills start?
The Malabar exercise first took place 25 years ago in 1992. Earlier it was a bilateral drill between India and US. Japan became a permanent member of the exercise in 2015. It had, however, participated in several drills since 2007 as a non-permanent member. The other non-permanent participants from the past are Australia and Singapore.
Which warships are taking part this year?
All the three countries have tried fielding in their largest warships for the exercise. The United States is bringing in the world’s largest aircraft carrier, USS Nimitz. The Indian Navy’s 44,570 tonne aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, and Japan’s largest 27,000 tonne helicopter carrier Izumo will also be among the 20-odd warships taking part in the exercise.
Other participants from the US Navy include the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59); guided-missile destroyers USS Howard (DDG 83), USS Shoup (DDG 86), and USS Kidd (DDG 100); a P-8A Poseidon aircraft; and a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine.
Indian Navy will also bring in its trusted submarines and maritime reconnaissance platforms. Two Made-in-India Shivalik class stealth frigates, two Russian-built Ranvir class destroyers in addition to the indigenous Kamorta class anti-submarine warfare corvette and a Kora class multi-role corvette are going to be deployed. The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships JS Sazanami (DD 113) will also be participating in the exercise.
What all is included in the exercise?
The drill will include both ashore and at-sea training. According to a US Navy statement released on Thursday, the ashore training in Chennai will include expert exchanges carrier strike group operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations.
The at-sea portions that will be conducted in the Bay of Bengal are designed to advance participating nations’ military-to-military coordination and capacity to plan and execute tactical operations in a multinational environment. Events planned during the at-sea portions include liaison officer professional exchanges and embarks, air defence exercises; medical evacuation drills and of course, anti-submarine warfare.
What is the goal of the exercise?
Malabar 2017 comes at a time when the Chinese navy is trying hard to increase its presence in the Indian Ocean region. The main aim of the exercise is to address the shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific. One primary area of focus this year will be on anti-submarine warfare.
The Chinese angle
Malabar 2017 comes at a time when there are high tensions between India and China over the Sikkim border and the growth of Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean Region, China, who has been wary of the drills since a long time is keeping a close watch. The Chinese government on Friday expressed its hope that the exercise is not aimed at other countries. “We have no objection to the normal bilateral relations and cooperation among relevant countries, but we hope that this kind of relationship and cooperation will not be directed at any third party and will be conducive to the regional peace and stability,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang.
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However, an editorial in the state-run China Daily hit out at the drill saying that even it is China and not India that should worry about its security. “India, the United States and Japan have begun their 10-day Malabar naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal, which are the biggest of their kind so far, and the US approved a $365-million sale of military transport aircraft to India last week and a $2-billion deal for surveillance drones is in the works, it is China that should feel ‘security concerns’, given the importance of the Indian Ocean for its trade and oil imports.”