23rd edition of the trilateral maritime exercise MALABAR, took place between navies of India, Japan and the U.S. from Sep 26th to Oct 4th off the coast of Japan.
What is the background?
• The Malabar exercises were first established in 1992 between India and the United States, but due to tensions arising from India’s nuclearization in 1998, it became an annual feature only in 2002.
• The bilateral exercises evolved from basic naval drills to include aircraft carriers in 2005 and added anti-piracy drills and search and rescue with a U.S. strike group and Coast Guard ships from both countries in 2006.
• In 2007, the scope of Malabar was enhanced and a five-nation multilateral naval exercise taking on board three other nations Japan, Australia and Singapore was organised.
• However this display of multilateral naval cooperation heightened China’s anxiety. Both India and the US sought to allay Chinese concerns and the Malabar exercise was made bilateral.
• Japan joined the Malabar exercises as a permanent member in 2015.
• All the participating nations in the exercise have clarified earlier that the Malabar series is not aimed at any specific country.
What is the importance of MALABAR?
• Malabar exercise denotes the growing level of interoperability between the navies of the US, India and Japan.
• The region of Indian Ocean contains 1/3 of the world’s population, 25% of its landmass, and 40% of the world’s oil and gas reserves. More than 80% of the world’s seaborne trade in oil transits through Indian Ocean.
• With China’s growing military strength and its increasing presence in the Indian Ocean, Malabar exercise has assumed greater importance.
• The Malabar exercise enhances India’s credibility in the maritime domain and prioritises collective effort to secure the first of the three global commons (oceans, space, and cyberspace).
• U.S. participation in the exercises indicates its interests in ensuring maritime security in the Indian Ocean region