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Indo-Japan-US naval exercise concludes: Ocean diplomacy

On the face of it, the exercise focused on disaster prevention and relief, maritime safety and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni |
October 19, 2015 6:12:26 pm
 india, japan, US, india japan US ties, indo japan US naval ties, japan self defence, narendra modi, UPA govt, India latest news Chennai: Naval officers of Japan Navy Ships greets onlookers during the media visits of five-day ‘Malabar exercise’ ( India, United States and Japan ) on the Eastern coast, at the Port Trust in Chennai on Thursday. (Source: PTI)

The Indo-Japan-US trilateral exercise, Malabar in the Bay of Bengal, which started on October 14 concluded on Monday. Started in 1992, the original bilateral Indo-US exercise is into its 19th version this year with the additional participation of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Forces (JMSDF).

The Bay of Bengal- along the eastern seaboard- is important to India in the light of its Look East Policy, which has been tweaked by PM Modi as the Act East Policy. In 2007, China protested against the Japanese participation in
Malabar 2007. This was followed by the then UPA government limiting the exercise to just a bilateral one between India and US. The JMSDF participation in the exercise in Bay of Bengal is thus a significant diplomatic decision for India for two reasons. On one hand, it underlines the importance Delhi imparts to ASEAN. On the other, it sends out a strong signal to China that India will independently pursue its foreign policy not withstanding interference from any other power.

On the face of it, the exercise focused on disaster prevention and relief, maritime safety and security in the Indo-Pacific region. However, there is more significance to Malabar 2015 than just the “military learning”- thanks
to the JMSDF participation. For the US, the exercise is a means to underline the Indo-Japan-US trilateral cooperation in the maritime domain in the light of its Pacific Rebalance.

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While Beijing has kept a watchful eye on the activities in the Bay of Bengal over few days, the exercise also assumes importance in the context of deteriorated Sino-Japanese ties over Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands and the Chinese construction work in the South China Sea — Japan has aggressively protested against it. The exercise thus sends out a subtle message to the Dragon indicating where the US stands when it comes to upholding freedom of navigation in international waters at large and the South China Sea to be specific.

In the Malabar 2015, the Indian Navy has been represented by INS Shivalik -an indigenous frigate, INS Ranvijay – a guided missile destroyer, INS Betwa- an indigenous frigate and INS Shakti- a Fleet Support Ship. In addition, one Sindhugosh class submarine, INS Sindhudhvaj, Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft P8I and integral rotary wing helicopters also participated in the trilateral exercise.

The US Navy was represented by the ships from Carrier Task Force (CTF) 70 of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is based at Yokosuka, Japan. The CTF included the Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Ticonderoga class Cruiser USS Normandy and Freedom Class Littoral Combat ship USS Forth Worth. In addition, one Los Angeles class nuclear powered submarine USS City of Corpus Christi, F18 Aircraft from US Carrier Air Wing and P8A Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft have been a part of the exercise.The JMSDF was represented by JS Fuyuzuki, a missile destroyer with SH 60K integral helicopter.

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