Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
In news: India, US and Japan took part in Malabar exercise in Bay of Bengal in its 31st edition. Malabar importance in terms of strategic position of India, US and Japan. Malabar exercise is done annually between India and US Navy. Earlier it was carried on west coast but from 2007 onwards, India is holding exercise in Bay of Bengal and alternatively in Sea of Japan.
Japan have joined exercise 7 times before, but this time they were formally inducted now onwards. Malabar 2017 featured 95 aircraft, 16 ships and two submarines, making it one of the largest naval exercises in the region in recent times.
Background: The annual Malabar exercise started in 1992 as a bilateral event between the navies of India and the United States. It was an important step in the process of reviving India’s relation with USA, as both countries had occupied opposite ends of the spectrum during the Cold War.
Learn from each others’ experiences
Show solidarity between participating navies
The thrust of exercises at sea this year would be on Aircraft Carrier operations, Air Defense, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Surface Warfare, Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS), Search and Rescue. What are the landing procedures? How the person on board aircraft carrier guides? What aids are available to pilot? This is subject matter of discussion during the present Malabar.
Anti-submarine warfare is an important component of naval warfare. It assumes significance in Indian Ocean Region because hydrological conditions are severe. This means it is easy for submarines to hide in Indian Ocean water. It is consequently difficult for warships and aircrafts to search for them. India acquired P-8I aircraft which are for searching submarines in Indian Ocean. There is state of art sonars on newly commissioned ships. So India is well equipped to participate in these operations.
For US it is important as they don’t generally operate in this area. Now they are getting an opportunity to test their sonars, sono buoys, P-8I capability against the submarines in Indian Ocean, there are helicopters which are being participated by 3 navies. So ASW has lot of significance.
India is becoming partner to US?
These exercise shouldn’t be interpreted as India joining some group. The Indian navy does joint exercises with 13 countries. The complexities of exercise may change- It may be a passing exercise as when Indian ships visit foreign ports and stand with the host navies. This happens with most navies.
India does yearly exercises with all advanced navies and friendly countries- UK, France, China
All regional navies- Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Oman, Mauritius. So joint exercises doesn’t mean India is becoming part of the alliance. Joint exercises are held to learn from each other.
Complexity of exercise has increased in scope and work. With foreign navies, such exercise become more interesting as India is able to start getting into the nitty gritty of subject matter. There is a first-hand view of warfare tactics used by respective participating countries. Soon there might be increase in weapon firing between navies in terms of displaying more sate of the art technology available with them.
Normally on aircraft, the landing is more challenging. It is complex for two reasons:
Deck is small. So more accuracy needed
Aircraft carrier is moving, the runaway is moving.
So now the naval designers have designed that landing aircraft has a hook with it and there are arrester wires at the runway at sea. As it aircraft lands on that runway, it throws hook on the wires and is brought to a halt immediately. If it is missed, then the aircraft pilot is trained to take off again.
Reaction of Russia
So far as naval officers are concerned, they know what joint exercises are about. They don’t see anything beyond it. Naval officers essentially see joint exercises as means of interacting, both socially and operationally. Major part of joint exercises is interaction. Recently India had fleet review where hundreds of sailor and officers interacted with each other. So when these officers grow in ranks and head the navy, they shall remember the bonds shared during interactions.
Naval exercises are a complex process. The exercise are for 4 days, but the preparations start 4 months ago. What are going to be participating units, exercises, schedules etc are planned in detail. Also, there will be debriefs and reports post the exercises. The feedback goes back to the ship designers also which can learn and incorporate them.
Navy will be the dominating force on India in coming times. It will be a kind of diplomatic military dominant force visible in other countries. Navy ought to be dominant force as there are sea lines of communication. However, India is still short of ships, aircrafts and submarines which is slowly needs to incorporate at available capacity. The responsibilities are growing and Indian Ocean Rim Countries look up to India to provide protection to them.
Connecting the dots:
The Malabar exercise 2017 is a critical security exercise between countries who see china as a fierce challenger. Do you agree? Give reasons for your answer.