Malabar 2017: India kicks off naval exercise with US, Japan

Chennai: Amidst concern raised by China, navies of India, US and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on July 10 began Malabar naval exercise 2017, aimed at achieving deeper military ties between the three nations.
It is the 21st edition of the Malabar exercise.
HCS Bisht, flag officer commanding-in-chief, Eastern Naval Command, declared the exercise open. He said, “The exercise indicated a joint attempt to address common challenges and shared threat.”
However, he refused to commit that choice of ships and the venue of exercise had anything to do with presence of Chinese ships or threat in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean region.
Rear Admiral William D Byrne, Commander, US Strike Group 11, said the only strategic message that was being sent to all navies is that “we are better together and eliminate possibilities of miscalculations.” He was responding to repeated questions of how China would view this joint exercise.
Sixteen ships, 95 aircraft and two submarines take part in the exercise that will go on till July 17.
The Malabar exercise is taking place amid the military stand-off between armies of India and China in the Sikkim section and Beijing ramping up its naval patrol in the Indian Ocean region.
China has stepped up its activities in the Indian Ocean+ in recent years, building ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The maritime exercises come weeks after US President Donald Trump declared that ties between Washington and New Delhi+ had “never been stronger” as he held his first talks with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Beijing already claims large swathes of the resource-rich South China Sea and East China Sea, putting it in competition with Japan and other countries in the region.
It is the fourth consecutive year Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) has taken part in the Malabar Exercise, conducted annually by the US and India in the Bay of Bengal since 1992.
In a statement, the US said the exercises had “grown in scope and complexity over the years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific”.

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