Despite the India-US joint statement issued during President Obama’s Delhi visit stating that “they will upgrade” Exercise Malabar, the maritime exercise will remain restricted to India, US and Japan this year, diplomatic sources said. The 2015 exercise will see Japan’s participation in a naval manouevre in the Bay of Bengal after eight years but Australia will not be participating in the exercise. This was confirmed at the seventh US-India-Japan trilateral dialogue held at Honolulu last Friday, according to sources.
US team at the trilateral dialogue was led by Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel. The Indian delegation was led by Joint Secretaries in the Foreign Ministry, Vinay Kwatra, Pradeep Rawat and Amandeep Gill. Takio Yamada, Japan’s Director-General of Southeast and Southwest Asian Affairs headed Tokyo’s delegation.
Although Japan had been part of the 2014 Malabar exercise held at its Sasebo naval base, India and US had kept Tokyo out of the initial planning for the current edition. This was because the 2015 Malabar exercise is scheduled to be held in the Bay of Bengal in October this year. India and US have restricted the Malabar largely to a bilateral format after China had protested against the 2007 exercise held in the Bay of Bengal. Along with the Indian and American navies, the 2007 edition had included the Australian, Japanese and Singaporean navies.
Malabar is an annual naval training exercise conducted by Indian and American navies, which includes fighter combat operations from aircraft carriers and other joint interdiction exercises. India will host its first-ever IN-RAN bilateral naval exercise with Australia in October-November, and JIMEX maritime exercise with Japan in November.