In­dia holds naval ex­er­cises with US, Ja­pan

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

NEW DELHI: In­dia be­gan hold­ing naval ex­er­cises with the United States and Ja­pan off its south coast yes­ter­day, seek­ing to forge closer mil­i­tary ties to counter grow­ing Chi­nese in­flu­ence in the re­gion. The ex­er­cises come as In­dian and Chi­nese troops face off in a re­mote and strate­gi­cally sen­si­tive part of the Hi­malayas where In­dia, China and Bhutan meet. In­dia has a long­stand­ing ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute with its north­ern neigh­bor, which is also ex­pand­ing its naval pres­ence in the re­gion.

It is the fourth con­sec­u­tive year Ja­pan’s Mar­itime Self-De­fense 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”. The US navy is field­ing the USS Nimitz, the world’s largest air­craft car­rier, for the drills which go on till July 17.

China has stepped up its ac­tiv­i­ties in the In­dian Ocean in re­cent years, build­ing ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pak­istan. The area also fea­tures heav­ily in Bei­jing’s new One Belt One Road ini­tia­tive to re­vive an­cient trade routes from Asia, which has caused con­cerns in New Delhi. Troops from the two nu­clear-armed neigh­bors have for weeks been en­gaged in a stand-off on a dis­puted sec­tion of land high near what is known as the tri­junc­tion, where Ti­bet, In­dia and Bhutan meet.

China has al­leged that the In­dian troops are on its soil, but both Bhutan and In­dia say the area in ques­tion is Bhutanese ter­ri­tory. The mar­itime exer- cises 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.—AFP

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