Four Indian naval ships including two stealth frigates and elite Marine Commandos (Marcos) will take part in a trilateral maritime exercise Malabar-16, starting from Friday, that will see India, US and Japan playing war games in seas off Japan.
The Indians ships participation in Malabar-16 with the US Navy and JMSDF, reflects the vital strategic importance of the region to India.
The exercise also assumes significance as it is conducted in East Asia at a time when the South China Sea issue is a raging issue in the region. On New Delhi’s part the exercise also reflects demonstration of its operational reach and commitment to India’s Act East policy.
India has deployed two of its multi-role stealth frigates, INS Sahyadri and INS Satpura, equipped with weapons and sensors, missile corvette Kirch and fleet tanker INS Shakti for the exercise, official sources said today.
Led by Eastern Fleet commander Rear Admiral S V Bokhare, Sea King-42B and Chetak helicopters have also been deployed by the India for the military exercise starting from June 10 to 13 in the first phase at Sasebo in Japan.
The second phase from June 14 to 17 will be off Okinawa.
The US too will participate in the exercise with its full might. It also has Ticonderogaclass missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay, three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and a tanker along with a wide array of aircraft and helicopters.
Japan has deployed its destroyer-cum helicopter carrier JS Hyuga, apart from P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft as well as the US-2i ShinMaywa amphibious aircraft, which it is keen to sell to India.
Reacting sharply to India’s move in December last year of including Japan in the Indo-US Malabar naval exercises on a permanent basis, China had said that Tokyo will not “provoke confrontation” and “heighten tensions” in the region.
The US, which had been pushing for Japan’s inclusion, has said the exercise is an important element for assessing the maritime capabilities of all the three countries.
The US has in recent months ramped up its warnings over what it calls China’s growing “militarisation” in the region.
American warships and aircraft have undertaken number of operations in the region to challenge China’s moves even as the US hopes to stitch Asian military powers into a closer cooperation.
The US has also been pushing for a quadrilateral security dialogue involving itself, India, Japan and Australia.