Japan will host the 2022 edition of the Malabar naval exercise consisting of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. in the second week of November, according to official sources. Indian Navy will also participate in the International Fleet Review (IFR) being hosted in the first week of November to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF), an official source said.
This is the latest in a series of bilateral and multilateral exercises in which the Indian armed forces have taken part recently. End of October, the India-U.S. bilateral Army exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas’ is scheduled to take place in the high altitude areas of Uttarakhand, around 100 km (aerial distance) from the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“The initial and final planning conferences for Malabar have been completed. The exercise is scheduled to be held from November 8 to 18,” a second official source said. While the Navy has not yet given details of its participation, two frontline warships and a P-8I Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) are likely to be deployed, it has been learnt.
Australia is keen to host the exercise but that has not yet been accepted by the partner countries, two official sources stated. Australia was included as a regular member in Ex Malabar in 2020.
The IFR to be held in the first week of November is being conducted during the 18th Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) ‘strategic discussion’ and ‘plenary session’ being hosted by Japan from November 5 to 10, according to a statement by the Royal Brunei Navy. However, it is not yet clear if India would be taking part in the WPNS. A decision from the Defence Ministry is awaited, said a defence source in the middle of last week.
A WPNS workshop 2022 was hosted by Japan in June and it saw the participation of the 20 WPNS member nations, which includes Australia, Japan and U.S., and six observer nations: Bangladesh, Colombia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and U.K., according to the Royal Brunei Navy.
While the engagement with the Quad countries and the Indo-Pacific countries continues, India had sent an Army contingent for the multilateral strategic and command Exercise Vostok – 2022 in the Eastern Military district in Russia in early September, which also saw the participation of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
India is currently hosting the multilateral anti-terror exercise ‘Manesar Anti-terror 2022’ under the ambit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure scheduled from October 8 to 13.
Last month, Indian Navy participated in the multinational exercise Kakadu hosted by Royal Australian Navy (RAN) at Darwin for which it had sent INS Satpura and one P-8I MPA. The exercise held from September 12 to 25 had the participation of 34 aircraft from over 20 nations.
India and Japan held the sixth edition of the bilateral naval exercise Jimex-2022 in September off Visakhapatnam.
Similarly, in early September, the Indian Air Force (IAF) joined 16 other nations, including the Quad partner countries, for Exercise Pitch Black, the biennial exercise hosted by Australian Air Force, which saw the participation of about 100 aircraft and 2,500 military personnel from 17 nations.
While outside engagements are on a high tempo, the IAF’s biannual firepower demonstration ‘Vayu Shakti’ remains postponed against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine. It was scheduled to be held in March but was postponed “due to the developing situation”.
At the same time, Australia’s flagship regional engagement activities, Indo-Pacific Endeavour (IPE), is currently underway. As part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour, five ships, 11 helicopters and nearly 1,800 personnel will visit 14 countries, including India, across Southeast Asia and Northeast Indian Ocean from September 26 to November 26, according to the Australian Defence Ministry. As part of this, RAN ship HMAS Adelaide is set to make port call at Visakhapatnam end of the month.
The highlights of the ‘Joint Guidance for the Australia – India Navy to Navy Relationship’ document signed between Indian Navy and RAN in August 2021 include close cooperation in regional and multilateral fora, including Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and Expert Working Groups subordinate to the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus framework.