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India-Japan drills signal deepening military cooperation

Radio Free Asia

The first joint combat air drills between India and Japan signal a deepening of the nations’ security ties as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) seeks to exert power and influence in the Indo-Pacific.

The inaugural Veer Guardian 2023 exercise, delayed for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was held January 16-26 at the Hyakuri and Iruma air bases outside Tokyo.

In 2019, the two air forces conducted exercise Shinyuu Maitri in India, focusing on mobility and tactical interoperability.

Gen. Shunji Izutsu, chief of staff of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), said Veer Guardian, which included fighter jets and cargo and tanker aircraft, would “improve the tactical skills of the JASDF, promote mutual understanding between the Japanese and Indian air forces, and further deepen defense cooperation.”

“Japan and India are in a special strategic global partnership relationship,” he told reporters, adding that “India is a like-minded country” to Japan.

The nations are members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, along with Australia and the United States. (Pictured: The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga, foreground, the Indian Navy ship INS Shivalik and the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan sail in the Philippine Sea during the Malabar 2022 exercise with Australia.)

Japan has grown increasingly wary of the PRC’s expanding assertiveness in the region, identifying Beijing as an unprecedented “strategic challenge” in its national security and defense strategies released in December 2022.

Japan also supports the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy, which notes that the PRC’s “coercion and aggression spans the globe, but it is most acute in the Indo-Pacific.”

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada attended the first Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., in mid-January 2023 to discuss further strengthening the allies’ deterrence and response capabilities.

Tokyo plans to boost its counterattack capabilities, especially given the potential risk of conflict over self-governed Taiwan, tension on the Korean Peninsula and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Beijing has increased air incursions in the Taiwan Strait and East China Sea, said Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “China has become more and more a common threat for countries in the region.”

He noted that Japan has reached out to India in recent years, with more bilateral exercises in the pipeline.

The nations’ armies conducted Dharma Guardian-2022 in Belgaum, India, while their maritime forces have trained together since 2012.



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