Despite China’s protest, India boldly inducts Japan in Malabar naval drill
Exercise Malabar is an effort made by the USA and India to conduct regular naval training exercises in the Indian Ocean. It was started in the year 1992 as a bilateral event that includes diverse activities, ranging from fighter combat operations from aircraft carriers, through maritime interdiction operations, and counter-piracy and counter-terrorism operations. Over the years despite its complexity, India and the US have been organizing these exercises annually except for a brief interregnum after the 1998 Pokhran II nuclear tests. Initiatives have been taken to extend participation of more countries.
In 2007, the ninth Malabar naval Exercise was held off the Japanese Island of Okinawa. It has been seen as India’s initial assertion towards marking its presence in the Northeast Asian waters. China protested against this edition in the Bay of Bengal when it was expanded to include the Australian, Japanese and Singaporean navies as well. China had viewed the multi-lateral exercise as its alienation from others.
The previous UPA regime was very strict about inducting Japan into the exercise only when it was held in the north-western Pacific in 2009 and 2014.
Interestingly, current Prime Minister Narendra Modi has strong intentions of bolstering bilateral strategic ties with Japan. India is also keen to acquire at least a dozen of the massive ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft from Japan for around $1.3 billion. And therefore, Modi has decided to go against China and invite Japan for its forthcoming Malabar naval exercise with the US in the Bay of Bengal in October.
On the other hand, China with its growing military might in the North-Asia Pacific, has vowed to increase its “open seas protection” in tune with its expanding long-range deployments of nuclear submarines, destroyers and frigates far away from its shores. India, the US and Japan all worry about such a behavior on China’s part.
Such a decision puts India in a strong position internationally and portrays India as a free country. With simultaneously operating initiatives like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ are a reminder to China and rest of the world that India will soon emerge as a great economic power, and deserves to be respected. This is not a hasty, rather a calculated step as India has intelligently kept quiet in expressing its feelings about the aggressive behavior of china, when in fact USA and Japan have been a lot vocal about it.