India, Japan, US Launch Naval Exercises

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd arrives off the coast of India in preparation for Malabar 2017, a series of exercises between the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob M. Milham) India, Japan and the United States have sent some of their largest warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean for naval exercises.

The yearly exercises have expanded in the past two years. They are a sign of deepening military cooperation among the three countries.

In recent years, U.S. and other officials have expressed concerns over Chinese activities not just in South China Sea, but also in the Indian Ocean.

The naval operation is the clearest sign of India’s growing security ties with the United States. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed those ties during their talks in Washington last month.

Exercise expands

The week-long exercises, called the Malabar exercises, began Monday on the high seas. They involve more than 15 warships, including the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz. Also taking part are the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, and Japan’s largest warship, the JS Izumo.

The main purpose of the operation is training in anti-submarine warfare. A U.S. embassy statement said “The exercise has grown in scope and complexity to address the variety of threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific.”

In recent months, the Indian Navy has reported an unusual increase in the number of Chinese naval ships in the Indian Ocean. Military observers say at least seven Chinese submarines have entered the Indian Ocean since the end of 2013. Observers believe the activity could be a show of force by the Chinese military.

Chinese financing and assistance for building ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka has added to Indian concerns about the Chinese naval sightings.

Chinese concerns

China remains suspicious of the Malabar exercises, notably after they were expanded to include Japan since 2015. The Chinese military believes the exercises are an effort to contain its influence.

Earlier this year, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said that his country had no objection to normal cooperation between countries. But he added “We hope that this kind of relationship and cooperation will not be directed against a third country and that it will be conducive to the regional peace and security.”

The official said the three countries are developing “a coordinated approach … just to be around in the Indian Ocean to just watch how the Chinese navy would be unfolding itself in the coming years.”During the Indian leader’s U.S. visit last month, Trump noted that the security partnership between their countries was “incredibly important.” Both sides promised to expand maritime security cooperation.India has also come increasingly close to Japan over the past two years. During a visit to Tokyo in May, Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley said that his country is looking to strengthen military cooperation with Japan.But the Indian government rejected a request by Australia to join the naval exercises.As the exercises began, a tense […]