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'Tri-nation naval exercise Malabar not targeted at China'

Chennai, July 10 (IANS) The tri-nation joint naval exercise Malabar 2017 is not targeted at China or connected to the border stand-off between India and China, but is an exercise to enhance interoperability between the navies of India, US and Japan, senior officials said here on Monday.

The Malabar joint naval exercise is a series of exercises, initiated in 1992 between the Indian and the US navies.

The exercise has grown in scope and complexity into a multifaceted exercise with the participation of Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JKSDF).

Speaking to the media here, Indian Navy’s Vice Admiral H.C.S. Bisht said: “The joint naval exercise is not connected to the border stand-off between the Indian and Chinese forces. The Malabar exercise process starts a year in advance.”

He said the exercise is for interoperability as well as to act as a deterrence to non-state actors. The prevention of non-state actors from carrying out their actions is a spin-off benefit of such an exercise.

Adding to that, Rear Admiral William D. Byrne, Commander, US Strike Group 11, said the only message that is sent from the Malabar exercise is that “together we can eliminate miscalculations as to who we are and what are our capabilities”.

Bisht said the three navies are not ganging up against China as the Malabar exercise was started way back in 1992.

The week-long joint naval exercise between July 10-17 will see the participation of 16 ships from three countries, two submarines and more than 95 aircraft.

Queried about the presence of Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean, Bisht said the Indian Navy has the capability to monitor the movement of ships.

According to Bisht, a joint naval exercise with Australia is happening and even two weeks back there was a joint exercise with the Australian navy.

Officials said the thrust of the exercise at sea this year would be on aircraft carrier operations, air defence, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, visit board search and seizure, search and rescue, joint manoeuvres and tactical procedures.

Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is participating in the exercise for the first time. The other ships belonging Indian Navy participating in the exercise are guided missile destroyer Ranvir, indigenous stealth frigates Shivalik and Sahyadri, indigenous anti-submarine warfare corvette Kamorta, missile corvettes Kora and Kirpan and one Sindhughosh class submarine, fleet tanker INS Jyoti and long range maritime patrol aircraft P8I.

The Japanese navy will be represented by JS Izumo, a helicopter carrier and SH 60K helicopters and JS Sazanami, a missile destroyer with SH 60K integral helicopter.

The US Navy will be represented by the ships from the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and other units for the US 7th Fleet.

The US Navy forces will include the Nimitz class aircraft carrier Nimitz with its air wing, Ticonderoga class cruiser Princeton, Arleigh Burke class destroyers Kidd, Howard and Shoup along with integral helicopters, a Los Angeles class attack submarine and a long range maritime patrol aircraft P8A.

The joint naval exercise will be in two phases — the harbour phase where there will be wide ranging professional interactions, and a sea phase with a diverse range of operational activities at sea.

China had said last week: “We have no objection to the normal bilateral relations and cooperation among relevant countries, but we hope that this kind of relationship and cooperation will not be directed at any third party and will be conducive to regional peace and stability.”

–IANS
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