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Next year’s edition of the annual U.S.- Japan-India trilateral exercise, codenamed “Malabar,” is said to largely focus on antisubmarine warfare, in an apparent move by the three allies to contain China’s expanding submarine capabilities.
Next year‘s edition of the annual U.S.- Japan-India trilateral exercise, codenamed “Malabar,” is said to largely focus on antisubmarine warfare, in an apparent move by the three allies to contain China’s expanding submarine capabilities.
According to India’s media reports, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, said during his visit to India in December that the United States and India are planning to upgrade their already expansive and top-level Malabar naval exercise, in which Japan has now become a permanent partner, with a renewed thrust on anti-submarine warfare operations. When asked what will be new in the exercise for 2017, Aucoin pointed out that India and the United States now deploy similar anti-submarine aircraft, P-8Is and P-8As, respectively, and said, “I would like to have two of those aircraft working together and to hunt submarines.”
Last July, the Indian government approved the purchase of four additional Boeing P-8I “Neptune” aircraft at a cost of US$1 billion. They are expected to be deployed by the Indian Navy over the next three years amid increasing forays by the Chinese underwater vessels in the Indian Ocean. In 2010, India already purchased eight P-8Is at US$2.1 billion, which are now all in service for the Navy.
The P-8I Neptune is an India variant of the U.S.’s P-8A ‘Poseidon’ anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol aircraft. The Indian version replaced many the U.S. electronic systems with indigenous ones. Aucoin was also quoted as saying, “Antisubmarine warfare is one I think will be veyr beneficial, so I am looking forward to it in Malabar.” He added that a decision on any other countries participation will depend on the leadership of these countries. “I think that is for my leadership, also for the leadership in India and Japan to decide. It rea lly helps -- three of the largest democracies, their naval forces working together. I am very happy with this,” he said commenting on the current format of the exercise.
In 2007, Australia was included along with Japan in the exercise. But a strong protest from China resulted in its withdrawal. In 2015, Australia expressed its interest in participating in the Malabar exercise again. Aucoin also said the three-way exercise will be held in the Indian Ocean next year, but the place or date has yet to be decided. The U.S. Seventh Fleet has patrolled Asia’s waters since World War II. Its coverage area extends from Japan to India.
Also in December, India’s Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba visited Japan and met Japanese military leaders “to consolidate existing maritime cooperation initiatives as well as explore new avenues” between the two countries, according to the Indian media reports.
Bilateral defense cooperation between Japan and India is known to be robust and primarily focuses on maritime cooperation.
The cooperation was institutionalized with the launch of the India-Japan Comprehensive Security Dialogue which was initiated in 2001. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force participated in the Malabar exercise in 2007, 2009, 2014 before becoming a regular member in the exercise in 2015