New Delhi: India and Japan will further step up defence ties, including a high tech Malabar naval exercise in the Indian Ocean next year, the two countries decided during defence minister Arun Jaitely’s visit to Japan this week.
Jaitley was in Tokyo at the invitation of Japanese defence minister Itsunori Onodera for the annual India-Japan defence ministerial dialogue. The governments have decided to explore opportunities for enhancing exchanges, and promote cooperation in several areas, the defence ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
The defence minister of Japan will visit lndia in 2018 for the annual defence ministerial meeting between the two countries. In a first, the Japanese Chief of Staff, Joint Staff Japan Self Defence Forces will also visit India in the first half of 2018.
The two armies will also step up cooperation in Counter-Terrorism and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and conduct a counter-terrorism exercise next year. The India-US-Japan Malabar exercise in 2018 could be more high tech than in the previous years.
"The Ministers expressed satisfaction at the success of Japan-India-US Trilateral Maritime Exercise MALABAR 2017 in July 2017 and confirmed their intention to further deepen and advance the objectives of this Exercise. Minister Onodera expressed his intention to have state-of-the-art Japanese assets including P-1 to participate in the MALABAR 2018. Minister Jaitley welcomed this proposal," the defence ministry said.
The Kawasaki P-1 is a Japanese maritime patrol aircraft. The two sides will also consider inclusion of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) training to expand cooperation.
In addition the ministers agreed to pursue exchanges and training by ASW aviation units such as Lockheed P-3 Orion which is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft.
The Japanese side proposed to invite Indian Navy personnel to mine-countermeasures training.
India and Japan also condemned North Korea for conducting its missile tests. “The Ministers exchanged views on the current security situation in the Indo-Pacific region. They condemned in the strongest terms North Korea’s nuclear test of 03 September, which is in violation of its international obligations and commitments, including under relevant UNSC resolutions and called upon DPRK to cease such action which adversely impacts peace and stability of the region and beyond," the ministry said.
The stepping up of the trilateral Malabar naval exercise comes at a time when China has become more assertive and there have been increasing attempts by its submarines to venture into the Indian Ocean region.
Apart from stepping up its activities in the Indian Ocean in recent years, China is also building ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Significantly, the solidarity of the three nations also comes in the wake of recent military standoff between the armies of India and China in the Doklam sector.
The 2017 edition of the Malabar exercise saw the participation of USS Nimitz, the world’s largest aircraft carrier. Besides USS Nimitz (CVN68), guided missile cruise ship USS Princeton (CG59), guided missile destroyers USS Howard (DDG83), USS Shoup (DDG86) and USS Kidd (DDG100), a Poseidon P-8A aircraft as well as a Los Angeles fast-attack submarine took part in the naval drills.
Japan Maritime Self Defence Force ships JS Izumo (DDH 183), JS Sazanami (DD1 13) along with Indian Naval Ship Jalashwa and INS Vikramaditya also participated in the exercise. In addition, it included professional exchanges on carrier strike group operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare. Medical operations, damage control, explosive ordinance disposal, helicopter operations and anti-submarine warfare also took place.
A senior executive of a private sector Indian defence firm, who declined to be named, said that the visit of Jaitley to Japan was aimed at keeping China in check.
“The messaging is important also with an increasingly belligerent China, so even though there was a shuffle in cabinet portfolios the visit was not rescheduled," he said.
Nirmala Sitharaman will take charge as new defence minister from Jaitely on Thursday after his return from Tokyo.