China on the radar, India invites Japan for Indo-US Malabar naval war


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Jun 17, 2009
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China on the radar, India invites Japan for Indo-US Malabar naval war games

NEW DELHI: Injecting some much-needed thrust to its rapidly expanding strategic partnership with Japan, India has invited the Japanese forces to take part in this year's edition of the Indo-US Malabar naval war games that have riled China in the past. India and Japan on Saturday also decided to hold another joint working group meeting in March to discuss the sale of Japanese US-2i ShinMayva amphibious aircraft to Indian Navy, apart from ramping up defence ties through regular joint combat exercises and military exchanges as well as cooperation in anti-piracy, maritime security and counter-terrorism.

Both the Malabar war games and the proposed sale of amphibious planes are crucial in the sense that they mark a departure from the past, both for India and Japan. India has largely restricted the Malabar exercise to a bilateral one with the US after China protested against the 2007 edition of the war games in the Bay of Bengal since they were expanded to include the Australian, Japanese and Singaporean navies as well.

China has always viewed any multi-lateral naval grouping in its neighbourhood as part of a grand strategy to build a security cooperation axis in the Asia-Pacific region to "contain'' it. Shrugging aside such concerns this time, India, US and Japan will hold the Malabar war games off the coast of Japan in August-September this year.

The joint statement issued after the Manmohan Singh-Shinzo Abe meeting on Saturday, in fact, welcomed India's invitation to the Japanese maritime self-defence force to take part in the Malabar exercise. China, of course, figures high on the radar screens of both. India and Japan are wary of China's increasingly assertive behaviour, especially in the contentious South and East China Seas where it is locked in territorial disputes with its neighbours ranging from Vietnam to Japan, as well as the rapid modernisation of the People's Liberation Army.

While Japan has been quite vocal about all this, India has tried to strike a fine balance between countries like the US and Japan on one side and China on the other. India and China are also of course competing for the same strategic space in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which New Delhi views as its own backyard.

On the amphibious aircraft front, Japan is trying to end its almost five-decade-old self-imposed embargo to export military hardware and software by selling at least a dozen US-2i planes to India to set the ball rolling. "The discussions are still at a preliminary stage. But yes, India would like to acquire armed amphibious planes for their operational logistics and search-and-rescue capabilities,'' said an official.

PM Manmohan Singh made it quite clear that the India-Japan partnership was "essential for peace, prosperity and stability in the Asian, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions''.

"We are working together on promoting maritime security and advancing our energy security. Together, and with other countries in the region and beyond, we seek an open, balanced, inclusive and rule-based regional architecture that fosters regional peace, stability and prosperity," he said.

China on the radar, India invites Japan for Indo-US Malabar naval war games - The Times of India

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