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Malabar exercise begins near islands contested by China

At a time of increased volatility in China’s relations with its oceanic neighbours as well as India’s own parleys for China’s support to gain entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the navies of India, Japan and the U.S. on Friday started the annual Malabar naval exercises in Japan, close to islands contested by China.

This also comes just after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. during which India was declared a major defence partner of the U.S. The location of the war games, which will be conducted over hundreds of miles, is of particular interest as they are not very far from the Air Defence Identification Zone imposed by China over the East China Sea in November 2013, including the Senkaku Islands, controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing, and the nine dash line. The exercise also comes at a time of increased sighting of Chinese submarines in India’s own backyard, close to Sri Lanka.

20th edition

“There are about 22 ships, over 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters participating in the exercise,” a senior officer said. This is the 20th edition of the exercise, and the first after the formal expansion of the bilateral exercise to a trilateral format last year.

The harbour phase is conducted from June 10 to 13 at Sasebo, and the sea phase will take place from June 14 to 17 off the Okinawa prefecture in the Philippine Sea.

“The primary aim of this exercise is to increase interoperability among the three navies and develop common understanding of procedures for maritime security operations,” the Navy said in a statement. The exercise included professional interactions in harbour and a diverse range of activities at sea, it said.

The major emphasis will be on anti-submarine drills and protecting aircraft carriers from hostile assets lurking under water. Additionally, the special forces of the three navies will interact during the exercise.

The U.S. Navy has fielded seven ships from the 7th fleet, led by the aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis, a nuclear-powered submarine, the missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay, and the destroyers USS Stockdale and Chung Hoon, besides the long-range maritime patrol aircraft.

India has fielded four ships, stealth frigates INS Sahyadri and Satpura, guided missile corvette INS Kirch and fleet tanker INS Shakti. Japan has deployed JS Hyuga, a helicopter carrier, and long-range patrol aircraft and another nine frontline ships are set to join the exercise in the sea phase.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in the U.S. on Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma said: noted how Malabar and the over India-US relationship has “dramatically transformed” over the last two decades. “When our three naval forces gather next week for Malabar 2016, it will be among our largest and most complex exercises to date.”

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 10:55:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/malabar-exercise-begins-near-islands-contested-by-china/article14414773.ece1

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