Annual Malabar drills to be held in US territory

Military exercise by India, Japan, US to take place off Guam in bid to boost cooperation beyond Indian Ocean

For the first time, India, Japan and the United States will hold their annual Malabar exercises off the US territory of Guam, as they seek to improve cooperation amid increasing focus on the Indo-Pacific region.

The war games, to be conducted from tomorrow until June 16, come as the three countries expand their area of cooperation beyond the Indian Ocean, where the exercises usually take place.

This is also seen by analysts as a counter to the growing maritime clout of China.

Three Indian warships and an aircraft from the Eastern Command will take part in the exercises. The US has six warships, while Japan has a helicopter carrier, two warships and a submarine.

The exercises include aircraft carrier operations, anti-submarine warfare and joint manoeuvres, said India's Ministry of Defence.

"Over the last 26 years, this maritime exercise has grown in scope and complexity and aims to address the variety of shared threats and challenges to maritime security in the Indo-Pacific," the ministry said in a statement.

INDO-PACIFIC FOCUS

The fact that we are having the exercises off the coast of Guam is a reiteration of the wholehearted acceptance of the Indo-Pacific construct while the subterraneous strategic message to China is 'look, we are in close cooperation with the US and Japan.'

DEFENCE ANALYST P. K. GHOSH


CONCERN OVER CHINA

Japan is worried, India and the US are worried with respect to how China is moving into the South China Sea and and Eastern Pacific. That is why the Malabar exercises are important.

RETIRED AIR VICE-MARSHAL MANMOHAN BAHADUR

The Malabar exercises started off in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between the US and India, but expanded to include Japan in 2015.

The drills usually take place in the Indian Ocean and occasionally off the coast of Japan. Last year, they took place in the Bay of Bengal.

The Indo-Pacific region stretches from the Indian Ocean to the coast of Africa, the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The US recently renamed its Hawaii-based Pacific Command as the US Indo-Pacific Command.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his recent speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, called the Indo-Pacific "a natural region" and described how India's armed forces, particularly the navy, was building and expanding partnerships in the region.

Analysts said it is significant that the exercises will be taking place for the first time in United States territory.

"The fact that we are having the exercises off the coast of Guam is a reiteration of the wholehearted acceptance of the Indo-Pacific construct while the subterraneous strategic message to China is 'look, we are in close cooperation with the US and Japan'," said defence analyst P. K. Ghosh.

"These are probably the most complex exercises we ever have with any country. It is a tactical or a strategic game played out on paper. Then the same thing plays out at sea."

Retired air vice-marshal Manmohan Bahadur noted: "Japan is worried, India and the US are worried with respect to how China is moving into the South China Sea and Eastern Pacific. That is why the Malabar exercises are important."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2018, with the headline 'Annual Malabar drills to be held in US territory'. Print Edition | Subscribe