India, US will hold joint naval exercise

To be held from April 2 to 10, the drill called the Malabar series of exercises, will include Japanese ships. The Okinawa coast has the highest concentration of US Marines in the region. For the second time in as many years, the joint exercises will see participation beyond those of India and the US. India had stopped doing so after China, in 2007, sent demarches to all the participants of a five-nation naval exercise held in the Bay of Bengal.

Japan’s tense relationship with China is too well-known. However, as the Japanese participation did not raise hackles of any country last year, India decided to once again go ahead with the drill involvingJapan which will be represented by the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force to participate.

Japan’s request to participate in the Okinawa exercises comes in the wake of its interest in developing a healthy  defence cooperative arrangement with India with which it has no security issues unlike China. Rather than individually dealing with global security challenges such as access to seas, outer space and cyber space, Japan perhaps, would like to partner with India and US in maritime co-operation.

For India too, getting Japan on board will be beneficial. Entering into a closer bilateral security relationship would help India get access to platforms and technologies that Japan had made its priorities in the defence arena.

The China barb against the joint exercises came in 2007 after which the attempt to institutionalise a US allies-plus India naval exercises was abandoned. The 2007 Malabar series in the Bay of Bengal was a massive exercise with the participation of the navies of India, the US, Singapore, Australia and Japan.

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