Malabar Naval Exercise is a trilateral naval exercise which is performed by the United States, Japan, and India. Originally it was a bilateral naval exercise performed between India and the United States but in the year 2015, Japan became a permanent partner. Previously India had Australia and Singapore as a part of Malabar naval exercise. Malabar naval exercise is a series of exercises to test different naval strategies.
The three nation Malabar naval exercise which includes India-Japan-United States begun in the Bay of Bengal on July 10, 2017. In the exercise 16 warships, two submarines and more than 95 aircraft will be used to perform the task. Malabar exercise is in its 21st edition this year. The tri-nation exercise is being held in the backdrop of India’s prevailing border tension with China at Doklam.
While taking to the media Indian Navy’s Vice Admiral H.C.S. 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.”
With the participation of Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JKSDF), the exercise has grown in scope and complexity into a multifaceted exercise. According to the Chinese media, the exercise performed by the three nations in the Indian Ocean region may be a security concern for China as it is considered to be economically important for Asia’s largest economy.
The Chinese state-owned newspaper raised various question over the timing of the exercise and the dispute among the India and China at Sikkim. The newspaper also focused on the growing defence ties between India and United States. The newspaper mentioned ” India- Japan-United States have started their Malabar naval exercise at the Bay of Bengal for 10 days, which proves to be one of the biggest exercise so far, and the approval of $365 million sales of military transport aircraft to India last week and $2 billion for surveillance drones is in process, 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 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.
For the first time, Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is participating in the exercise. 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.