Amid a tense border row between India and China, navies of US, Japan and India started the 21st edition of Malabar exercise on Monday.
For long seen as a cause of concern for the Chinese because of the coming together of navies of three democratic countries with whom Beijing shares testy relationships, the naval exercise was particularly scrutinised closely this time due to the increasingly deteriorating India-China border situation.
According to News18.com, China had sent a surveillance ship, the HaiwangXiang, in the Indian Ocean to monitor the Malabar Exercise.
Although India has been rather cautious in not naming any particular country against whom the exercise could be targeted, The Times of India reported quoting a US naval officer that the exercise is a signal to China that the participating countries are “standing together”.
“They (China) will know that we are standing together and that it is better to stand together," said the naval officer, the Times of India reported.
Formerly a bilateral exercise between India and the US, this year's drill is only the second to include Japan — and the first to include aircraft carriers from all three navies reported edition.cnn.com.
The exercises are intended to provide a "symbolic reassurance that the US is committed to working with India to continue shaping the Asian security environment," said Constantino Xavier, a foreign policy specialist at Carnegie India. The website reported, adding that this year's Malabar exercises will for the first time include exchanges on anti-submarine warfare, patrol and reconnaissance, according to the US Navy.
The week-long series of war games will involve a total of 16 ships — including the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz, India's INS Vikramaditya, a reconditioned Russian-built aircraft carrier, and Japan's JS Izumo, a helicopter carrier with an emphasis on anti-submarine warfare — as well as two submarines and more than 95 aircraft.
With an aim to become a blue water Navy with a sizeable presence in the Indian Ocean, China is increasingly expanding its maritime strength by including latest warships, submarines and naval patrol helicopters at quick pace.
According to an Indiaspend.com article, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) has 283 major surface combatant warships, four times more than those under the control of the Indian Navy 66.
The superior naval strength is allowing China to increasingly make its presence felt in the Indian Ocean, long seen by India as its own territory.
The Indian Navy has sighted over a dozen PLA-N warships, submarines and intelligence-gathering vessels in the Indian Ocean in the last few months, Indiaspend.com reported.
Belated though, India has begun to take a more active role in working with regional partners to contain China's influence, reported edition.cnn.com, adding that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to the US in June, along with the US sale of 22 surveillance drones to the Indian Navy, is considered to be a step in that direction.
In another article, nytimes.com reported that the advanced surveillance drones could be deployed to the Strait of Malacca and used to track Chinese naval movements. The drones can be used in concert with the American-made P-8I Poseidon surveillance aircraft, which are already staged on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The Indian government has signalled that it is willing to expand security infrastructure in the Indian Ocean, and Malabar exercise is an excellent opportunity to test the battle readiness of its navy.
Updated Date: Jul 11, 2017 17:50 PM