India, Japan, U.S. launch naval drills

India, Japan, U.S. launch naval drills


India, Japan and the United States kicked off a joint naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal in October 2015, with plans for it to become an annual event — a move likely to concern China, Indian government sources said.

The last time New Delhi hosted multilateral drills in its waters in 2007 prompted disquiet in China, where some saw it as a U.S.-inspired security grouping along the lines of NATO in Europe.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has signaled a more robust security policy, seeking stronger strategic ties with the United States and Japan while keeping a lid on border tensions with China.

The United States is deploying the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and a nuclear-powered submarine in the weeklong exercises that the Indian Navy said will cover the full spectrum of maneuvers.

“These exercises are all-encompassing, starting from one spectrum to the other including anti-piracy operations; board, search and seize; and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” said Indian Navy spokesman Capt. D.K. Sharma.

The decision to expand the Malabar exercises that the U.S. and India conduct each year to include Japan comes days after a Pentagon official said it was considering sailing warships close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea. India has kept away from the tensions in the South China Sea, but has stood with the U.S. in calling for freedom of navigation in the region.

Tokyo has been involved in the drills off and on in recent years when they were held in the Pacific, but the three governments have now agreed to formalize Japan’s participation, Indian defense sources said.

The Indian Navy was deploying a submarine to the Malabar exercises along with surface ships and maritime surveillance aircraft, but neither of its two aircraft carriers were taking part. Japan was sending a lone destroyer.