Trilateral military exercise fosters balance of power across Indo-Asia-Pacific
A U.S. aircraft carrier strike group began naval exercises with India and Japan in early July 2017 that the U.S. Navy said would help the three countries tackle maritime threats in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The annual exercises named Malabar are being held off India. They are the largest since India and the United States launched the exercise in 1992. Japan was later included.
“Malabar 2017 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises that has grown in scope and complexity over the years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” according to the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM).
(Pictured: Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) lower a ladder onto a tugboat as the ship prepares to enter port in Chennai, India, for Malabar 2017.)
Military officials said the drills involving the U.S. carrier USS Nimitz, India’s lone carrier Vikramaditya and Japan’s biggest warship, the helicopter carrier Izumo, are aimed at helping to maintain a balance of power in the Indo-Asia-Pacific against the rising weight of China.
The three countries have been concerned about China’s claims to almost all the waters of the South China Sea, and more broadly, its expanding military presence across the region.
Chinese submarines, for example, recently docked in Sri Lanka, an island just off the southern tip of India that it has long seen as squarely in its backyard.
The maritime drills are occurring as India and China are locked in a standoff on their land border in the Himalayas.
USPACOM said in a prepared statement that the exercises would help the three countries operate together, and it was learning how to integrate with the Indian Navy.
For decades, India and the United States remained on opposite sides of a Cold War divide. They have become major defense partners in recent years. Meanwhile, China has in the past criticized the exercises as destabilizing the region.
India in 2017 turned down an Australian request to join the exercises for now, for fear that would antagonize China further.
The Indian Navy said the exercises would focus on aircraft carrier operations and ways to hunt submarines.
It has spotted more than a dozen Chinese military vessels including submarines in the Indian Ocean during the past two months, media reported days ahead of Malabar.
“Naval cooperation between India, U.S. and Japan epitomizes the strong and resilient relationship between the three democracies,” according to a statement from India’s Defense Ministry.
The border standoff on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tension between the neighboring giants, which share a 3,500-kilometer frontier, large parts of which are disputed.