The three-nation Malabar Naval Exercise involving India, Japan and the United States maritime forces began in the Bay of Bengal on Monday. Initiated in 1992 between the Indian and the US navies, the Malabar joint naval exercise is a series of exercises to test different naval strategies. The tri-nation exercise is being held in the backdrop of India's prevailing border tension with China at Doka La.
Speaking to the media, Indian Navy's vice admiral HCS Bisht said, "The joint naval exercise is not connected to the border stand-off between the Indian and Chinese forces. The Malabar exercise process starts a year in advance."
Nevertheless, the Chinese media has said that the exercise may be a security concern for China as the Indian Ocean Region is considered economically important for Asia's largest economy.
The editorial in the state-owned China Daily has raised questions over the timing of the exercise coinciding with the ongoing standoff at Sikkim,. The editorial also commented on the growing defence ties between US and India.
"India, the United States and Japan have begun their 10-day Malabar naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal, which are the biggest of their kind so far, and the US approved a $365-million sale of military transport aircraft to India last week and a $2-billion deal for surveillance drones is in the works, it is China that should feel "security concerns", given the importance of the Indian Ocean for its trade and oil imports," the editorial said.
A report in The New York Times focussed on the geo-strategic game in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), commenting that India holds a strategic advantage since the Andaman and Nicobar Archipelago stretches up to the South China Sea.
The report also noted that the Indian Navy has planned to open a permanent station in the Strait of Malacca, the gateway to the South China Sea, to monitor Chinese navy in the region.
South China Sea is key to the geo-strategic calculations in the region as China has been claiming a vast Exclusive Economic Zone covering the sea as its own. China is also locked in territorial disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea.
China's blue-water ambitions have reportedly threatening the US' pre-eminence in the Indian Ocean Region. Japan, its close ally since World War II is also facing the heat from an assertive China.
A report in Newsweek said that the growing defence partnership between the US, Japan and India, has forced China to move closer to Pakistan, a traditional ally of the United States. Notably, Pakistan already hosts the China-built Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea.
The vessels participating in the exercise
Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is participating in the exercise for the first time. The other ships belonging Indian Navy participating in the exercise are guided missile destroyer Ranvir, indigenous stealth frigates Shivalik and Sahyadri, indigenous anti-submarine warfare corvette Kamorta, missile corvettes Kora and Kirpan and one Sindhughosh class submarine, fleet tanker INS Jyoti and long range maritime patrol aircraft P8I.
The Japanese navy will be represented by JS Izumo, a helicopter carrier and SH 60K helicopters and JS Sazanami, a missile destroyer with SH 60K integral helicopter.
The US Navy will be represented by the ships from the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and other units for the US 7th Fleet.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 11, 2017 17:19 PM