In­dia, US, Ja­pan set for Mal­abar ex­er­cise; Quad to meet in NY

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - Ra­jat.Pan­[email protected] times­group.com

New Delhi: As the first-ever “Quad” meet­ing at the for­eign min­is­ter-level takes place on the side­lines of the UN gen­eral assem­bly in New York this week, war­ships and air­craft from three of the coun­tries are amass­ing over 7,100 miles away in the Western Pa­cific for high-volt­age wargames that have of­ten irked China.

The 23rd edi­tion of the top­notch “Mal­abar” naval ex­er­cise among In­dia, the US and Ja­pan kicks off Sasebo in Ja­pan on Wed­nes­day, with Aus­tralia be­ing the sole “Quad” mem­ber not in­volved in the 10day wargames. In­dian de­fence es­tab­lish­ment sources say In­dia has separately cranked up mil­i­tary ties with Aus­tralia, which saw the two coun­tries con­duct their big­gest-ever naval ex­er­cise called “AusIndEx” to “build in­ter-op­er­abil­ity” off the Visakha­p­at­nam coast in April this year.

“So, willy-nilly, there is a mil­i­tary di­men­sion to the Quad, a group of like-minded democ­ra­cies who are for a free, open and rules-based or­der in the In­dian Ocean Re­gion, South China Sea or else­where, as op­posed to an ag­gres­sive China in the Indo-Pa­cific,” said a source.

In­dia has been against any mil­i­tari­sa­tion of the Quad, much like it was even op­posed to up­grad­ing it to a min­is­te­ri­al­level di­a­logue till now, to not need­lessly an­tag­o­nise a prickly China. In 2007, for in­stance, Bei­jing ob­jected to Mal­abar ex­er­cise in Bay of Ben­gal be­cause it was ex­panded to in­clude Ja­pan, Aus­tralia and Sin­ga­pore as well. While Ja­pan has now be­come a reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pant in Mal­abar, In­dia has not agreed to in­clude Aus­tralia just yet.

For the lat­est Mal­abar, In­dia has sent its 6,100-tonne stealth frigate INS Sahyadari, an­ti­sub­ma­rine war­fare corvette INS Kil­tan and Po­sei­don-8I long-range mar­itime pa­trol air­craft. “This is the first time one of our P-8I air­craft has been de­ployed to Ja­pan,” said an­other source. The Mal­abar comes soon af­ter In­dia held its first tri­lat­eral naval ex­er­cise with Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land in the An­daman Sea ear­lier this month.

Full re­port on www.toi.in

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