Japan to be regular at Malabar exercise

Abe-Modi Meet: Leaders urge nations to avoid unilateral actions in South China Sea

Japan to be regular at Malabar exercise

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Saturday agreed that Japan would now regularly join India and the US in the annual Malabar naval exercise.

The move signals a growing convergence in strategic interests of the three nations in Asia Pacific and may be seen by Beijing as a bid to contain China.

Modi and Abe also urged all states to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to tensions in South China Sea – a not-so-veiled call to Beijing to refrain from building new islands and airstrips in the disputed waters as well as from efforts to curb freedom of navigation and over-flight.

A meeting between Modi and Abe saw New Delhi and Tokyo signing of two agreements, one for transfer of defence equipment and technology from Japan to India and another for protection of classified military information. The agreements are likely to set the stage for production of Japanese US-2 amphibious aircraft in India. New Delhi is also interested to get Japanese Soryu class submarines for Indian Navy.

The two leaders also agreed to launch regular interactions between the officials of air forces of the two nations, apart from existing mechanisms for military-to-military dialogue and cooperation between the coast-guards.

According to a joint statement, the two prime ministers were of the view that “full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and early conclusion of the negotiations to establish a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea by consensus will contribute to peace and stability of the region”.

They also decided to hold regular close consultations on the issues related to maritime safety and security of sea lanes of communication.

Just a day after a commentary on Chinese state-run newspaper “Global Times” termed Abe’s visit to New Delhi and his meeting with Modi as part of Tokyo’s strategy to contain China, the two prime ministers noted that “stability and development in the Indo-Pacific region” was “indispensable to national security and prosperity” of India and Japan.

They reaffirmed that close cooperation between Japan and India was the “key to achieving peace and stability in the region”. Though the Malabar exercise has so far been an annual bilateral drill by the navies of India and US, Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force participated in it in the Bay of Bengal last October.

In September, India held a bilateral naval exercise with Australia off the coast of Vizag in Bay of Bengal. New Delhi’s moves are intended to flex its maritime muscles in response to China’s growing assertiveness in the Indian Ocean.

In 2007, India joined the US, Australia, Japan and Singapore for the ‘Malabar’ naval exercise in Bay of Bengal. The five-nation 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 nations.  

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