Act East Policy: India to hold naval exercises to counter China threat



By NewsGram Staff Writer

India will hold a flurry of bilateral naval exercises over the coming months with countries in the critical Asia Pacific region. Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore will be working with Indian Navy for the exercise.

Interspersed with them will be exercises with the US (Malabar), UK (Konkan) and Russia (Indra), with the one with France (Varuna) already being held in Arabian Sea in April-May.

India has “so far” kept Japan out of the initial planning for the 19th Indo-US Malabar naval combat exercise to be held in Bay of Bengal in October.

This despite the Modi-Obama summits in September and January agreeing “to upgrade” the annual war-games, and both Japan and Australia keen to hop on to the bandwagon.

“The previous UPA regime largely restricted the Malabar exercise to a bilateral one after China protested against its 2007 edition in Bay of Bengal especially since they were expanded to include the Japanese, Australian and Singaporean navies as well”, a TOI report said.

Since then, Japan has been co-opted only when the Malabar was held in the north-western Pacific in 2009 and 2014.

Indian and Thai warships will hold their coordinated patrolling along their international maritime boundary line anytime during late October to early November. This will be followed by a similar exercise with Myanmar in February-March next year.

Interestingly, around the same time, the Bay of Bengal will be the venue for India’s first-ever IN-RAN naval exercise with Australia from October 30 to November 4 as well as the JIMEX exercise with Japan thereafter in mid-November.

To counter China’s huge strategic inroads in the Indian Ocean region and beyond, India is steadily building maritime bridges with other countries in the region.

Four Indian warships, for instance, are currently on a long overseas deployment to South Indian Ocean and South China Sea in consonance with the “Act East” policy.

The 2015-2020 bilateral defence cooperation with Vietnam through a new “joint vision statement” will also be cranked up.

India is already training Vietnamese personnel on Kilo-class submarines and now proposes to do the same for Sukhoi fighter jets.

India remains deeply suspicious of Beijing’s expanding military might and assertiveness in Asia-Pacific, much like Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines and others locked in territorial disputes with China in the East and South China Seas.

China, on its part, has also 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.