IN KEEPING with the India-US joint statement issued during US President Barack Obama’s January visit, the two countries have finalised plans to increase their participation in maritime Exercise Malabar, to be held in the Bay of Bengal next month.
Earlier, India was keen on the same level of participation as in Malabar 2014, which would have meant two combatant vessels and one fleet tanker. But US officials reminded that the Modi-Obama joint statement called for institutionalising Malabar and making it more complex. “The US side thought we were trying to do the bare minimum with our initial bid for Malabar. They put pressure to increase our participation,” a Navy official said.
So, at a meeting in Visakhapatnam last month, the Indian side informed US officials that an additional combatant vessel would be brought in — which means a total of three combatant vessels, one submarine and one P-8I aircraft. “They are bringing their aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt, for Malabar. They wanted us to bring ours (INS Vikramaditya). We told them that Vikramaditya is due for maintenance around that time,” said the Navy official. Besides USS Theodore Roosevelt, the US side will bring two combatant vessels, one submarine and one P-8 aircraft.
As reported by The Indian Express, Japan had agreed to participate in Exercise Malabar during the seventh US-India-Japan trilateral dialogue held in Honolulu in early July. The Japanese maritime self defence force is sending a single combatant vessel.
The highlights of Exercise Malabar this time will be anti-submarine warfare — submarine versus submarine and aircraft carrier versus submarine. With the Navy agreeing to deploy its P-8I aircraft, it will be the first time that P-8 aircraft from two Navies will be operating together in an anti-submarine role. The two Navies will also focus on lower-level engagement by practising medical cooperation at sea.“We have broadened our cooperation in Malabar this time. It is just not limited to ships only,” said the Navy official.