Close on the heels of the ongoing Indo-Japan bilateral naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Coast Guard is set to hold a similar exercise with its Japanese counterpart off Kochi in mid-January.

The Hindu has learnt that the focus areas of the joint drill will be coastal security, search and rescue and anti-piracy operations besides anti-pollution measures. “As we operate in a multi-naval scenario, it is important to develop interoperability with friendly maritime forces. And, Japan is a close ally,” said an officer.

Japanese Coast Guard’s large patrol vessel Mizuho, which is slated to take part in the exercise together with Indian Coast Guard Ships Samrat, Laxmibai and interceptor vessel C-404, will arrive at the outer anchorage in Kochi on January 10.

“It will come alongside the Cochin Port Trust quay the next day. Groundwork for the joint exercise and meetings with various coastal and harbour security stakeholders will be conducted in the following days. The exercise will be held on January 14,” Coast Guard sources said.

Besides three vessels, the Indian side is likely to field a Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft and Chetak search and rescue helicopters for the exercise. Ship visit exchanges and a friendly football match will also take place during the period. The Japanese vessel will depart Kochi on January 16.

Occurring as it does when India-Japan military interaction is on a high, the exercise will see both sides work towards developing coordinated responses to various coastal security challenges like piracy, poaching and other unlawful activities in coastal waters.

Military relations between India and Japan grew from strength to strength over the past few years, thanks to India’s resurgent ‘look-east policy’ and the Japanese geo-strategy of counterbalancing China’s strides in the region by forging a long-term strategic partnership with India. The inception of an annual bilateral naval exercise, named JIMEX (Japan India Maritime Exercise) whose second edition is under way now, was a step in that direction, point out officials.

Following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan early this year, a joint working group was formed to work out the modalities for possible acquisition by Indian Navy of the Japanese amphibious aircraft, US-2. Japan had eased its ban on export of defence material to facilitate the deal.

The relations received further fillip last month when Japanese Emperor Akihito visited India on the occasion of the diamond jubilee of Indo-Japan diplomatic ties.

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