India invites Japan for naval exercise

India invites Japan for naval exercise

Amid escalating tension between Beijing and Tokyo over maritime disputes, New Delhi has invited Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force to join the Indian and US navies for the next edition of Malabar Exercise – a move which is likely to raise hackles in China.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe have also agreed to hold bilateral naval exercises regularly and more frequently.

“We noted with satisfaction the growing frequency of our political engagement and our expanding defence and security cooperation. Our bilateral maritime exercises have now been established on an annual basis and we have welcomed Japan's participation in the Malabar exercise this year,” Singh said after a meeting with Abe here on Saturday.

Abe, who is known for hawkish stand on Japan-China territorial disputes, commenced his three-day visit to India. He will also be the chief guest on the occasion of the Republic Day ceremony here on Sunday. After the meeting between the two Prime Ministers, the two countries signed eight pacts, including one for a soft loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation for the National Thermal Power Corporation’s upcoming 2400 MW plant at Kudgi in Bijapur district of Karnataka.

Japan had in 2007 joined India, the US, Australia and Singapore for the Malabar Exercise in Bay of Bengal. The drill had purportedly rattled China, which had earlier that year issued strong demarches to New Delhi, Washington, Canberra and Tokyo seeking to know details of a quadrilateral initiative launched by the four countries.

Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force had a bilateral exercise off the coast of Chennai last month. Tokyo and New Delhi are also keen to conduct the joint exercise in the Pacific Ocean in 2014.

New Delhi’s invitation to Japan to join the next Malabar Exercise is significant as it comes in the wake of escalating tension in East China Sea triggered by the conflicting claims of Tokyo and Beijing over the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands. It also comes less than a year after India’s own territorial dispute with China reached near a flashpoint with a three-week-long stand-off at Depsang Bulge in Ladakh in April-May 2013.

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