Astrategically crucial trilateral naval exercise among India, US and Japan, Exercise Malabar will kick-start in Chennai from Monday.
The joint exercises will continue till 19 October in the Indian Ocean. All the three Navies of India, US and Japan are to hold a joint press conference to give details about the exercise on Thursday in Chennai.
Talking about the significance of Exercise Malabar, Phillip Min, Consul General of US Consulate General in Chennai told The Sunday Guardian, “On the security side, our collaboration is always growing in ways that would benefit both countries, our citizens, and the world. The complexity of joint military exercises has increased in the last 10 years and we continue to grow our partnership in the Indian Ocean. As an example, our joint Naval Exercise Malabar, commencing this week, will be a complex, multilateral exercise welcoming the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force for the second consecutive year.”
“The fact that this exercise is happening in the Indian waters shows India’s proactive position in naval security,” said Shrikant Paranjpe, Professor at Defence and Strategic Studies at Savitribai Phule University of Pune. “Exercise Malabar is a symbolic exercise in naval co-operation on security issues between the India-US Navies. When it started, it was a significant departure in India-US relations. The participation of Japan is the most positive development in this endeavour, which reflects reduction in Japan’s reluctance to talk seriously about security concerns,” he said.
USS Fort Worth, which is to participate in the exercise, has already arrived in the Indian waters, a highly placed official at the Ministry of Defence told The Sunday Guardian. “Teams from Japan and US have already started arriving,” he said.
A table-talk exercise which is meant for the personnel to acquaint themselves to each other, will be held on Monday and Tuesday, it is reliably learnt. “It will be a part of the harbour phase which will continue till Friday. Thereafter, the sea-phase will begin, and it will continue till 19 October. Various types of complex exercises are envisaged during these phases,” a Defence spokesperson said.
More than 1,000 naval personnel from all the three fleets will participate in the exercise. India will send its two-star and three-star admirals for the joint press event.
The naval vessels which will participate on India’s behalf are — one stealth frigate of Shivalik class, one Ranvir class destroyer, Deepak class fleet tanker INS Shakti, one guided missile frigate of Betwa class and submarine INS Sindhudhwaj.
Along with them, two types of helicopters and one P8I long range maritime reconnaissance and ASW aircraft will participate in the exercise. The Indian special forces, which are to participate in the exercise, are teams of MARCOS and Explosive Ordnance Teams.
From the American Navy, the following vessels are to join the exercise: Aircraft Carrier Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz class carrier with all types of combat aircraft (CCGS 12); USS Normandy, which is a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser; USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), which is a Freedom-class littoral combat ship. It will have MH R60 helicopters and a Fire Scout UAV rotary wing. The American fleet will also consist of a Los Angeles class SSN City of Corpus Christie.
The Japanese Maritime Self Defence Forces’ fleet will consist of one Akizuki class Destroyer Fuyuzuki, with Mitsubishi heavy helicopter.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EXERCISE
“When Exercise Malabar started, it was a breakthrough in Indo-US relations. Before that, there was no dialogue on security issues,” Paranjpe said.
The Malabar Exercise began in 1992, but was suspended after India conducted nuclear tests. It was restarted with renewed vigour only in 2002, after the 9/11 attacks on the US.
For the US, India’s proactive stand in the South China Sea signifies a stable military power which can address the Chinese assertion.
It means that India is a significant power in the Indo-Pacific region to counter Chinese presence, he said.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reaching out to Japan and Australia. This means he is taking a more proactive position in the South China Sea, which coincides with the US position in the Pacific region. This shows that the government is going a few steps further for forging a strong security connection with the US,” he said.
The addition of Japan, which is seriously militarising itself, shows that Japan is on India’s side for a concrete security strategy. “It shows that Japan is willing to hold a dialogue with India despite the ideological blinkers,” Paranjpe said.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE NAVAL OFFICERS
Highly placed officials in the Indian Navy said the exercise helps its officers earn tactical and operational philosophies and imbibe best practices.
It also sends out a strong signal to the world about who is aligned with whom on security issues.
“We don’t exercise with China or Pakistan,” an officer said. “The Chinese Navy is growing in size and is making aggressive overtures, especially in the South China Sea. They are likely to see this as a political signal of like-minded countries that have presence in that region,” he said.
In 2007, China had protested against a five-nation Exercise Malabar which included Australia and Singapore, apart from Japan, US and India.
Both US Navy and Japanese Navy are highly advanced navies with huge combat experience.
Officers said that there was a lot to learn and exchange.
The exercises include highly complex ones which include aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered submarines.
“Countries can sell you hardware but they will never give you tactics, procedures and operating philosophies. These can only be experienced at sea and compared to our own. These help in evolving new ideas for our own use which are then evaluated and adopted if found suitable,” said a Naval officer.
The exercises help interoperability and co-operation in a wide spectrum of operations including humanitarian relief.
It is a show of resolve by like-minded navies to preserve good order at sea and common maritime interests.
For a Naval officer at micro level, it gives exposure to international environment and offers unique professional opportunities.
“Officers of participating navies cross-embark to observe happenings on the ships of other countries. In the process, personal bonds are created across all levels which have the potential to expand as officers move up their own hierarchies,” a senior Naval officer said.