India to join Russia’s Vostok 2022 wargames, but stay away from naval drill to avoid hurting Japan’s sensitivity

While India will take part in the multi-nation military drills, it will refrain from participating in maritime exercises
Last Updated 30 August 2022, 05:22 IST

India will take part in the multi-nation military drill, Vostok 2022, being hosted by Russia from September 1 to 7, but will stay away from its maritime component to avoid hurting the sensitivity of Japan.

The warships of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will take part in the drill in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan as part of the Vostok 2022. India, however, will not participate in the maritime component of the exercise, which triggered protests from Japan.

New Delhi has accepted Moscow’s invitation to take part in the Vostok 2022 multi-nation military exercise – the first multi-nation military drill being hosted by Russia after it launched its military offensive against Ukraine on February 24. India’s participation in the military exercise will remain limited to strategic command and staff drills, along with Russia and China, as well as several other nations, including Syria, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Laos, a source in New Delhi said.

Tokyo objected to Moscow’s plan to hold the maritime component of Vostok 2022 close to Northern Territories, a.k.a. Southern Kuril Islands, claimed by both Japan and Russia.

The Southern Kuril Islands are located between Hokkaido of Japan and the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. The islands separate the Okhotsk Sea from the North Pacific Ocean.

Tokyo conveyed its concerns to Moscow over Russia’s military exercise so close to the territory of Japan, Hirokazu Matsuno, the Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Japanese Government, said. Moscow, however, brushed aside the protests from Tokyo and went ahead to hold the drill. The Ministry of Defence of President Vladimir Putin’s government on Monday stated in Moscow that the Russian and Chinese warships will practice joint operations in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan to demonstrate capability to defend sea lanes and areas of maritime economic activity.

India sought to strike a balance by accepting Russia's invitation to take part in the Vostok 2022 drill, but, at the same time, refraining from sending its warships to participate in the maritime component of the drill.

Japan is India’s partner in the Quad, a four-nation coalition forged to counter China’s hegemonic moves in the Indo-Pacific region, with the other members being Australia and the United States. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are expected to join their counterparts in Tokyo for the India-Japan 2+2 ministerial dialogue on September 8 – just a day after the conclusion of the Vostok 2022.

India and Japan also inked a military logistics sharing agreement in September 2020.

New Delhi over the past few months drew flak from the US and the other western nations, not only for refusing to join them in strongly condemning Russia for its aggression against Ukraine – primarily in view of its decades-old strategic partnership with and its dependence on the former Soviet Union nation for military hardware.

India is also circumventing sanctions imposed by the United States and the other western nations on Russia and continuing bilateral trade. It also increased oil and coal imports from Russia.

(Published 29 August 2022, 20:28 IST)

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