According to the Indian Navy, a range of complex drills involving warships, aircraft and helicopters will be carried out during the four-day exercise, which is hosted this year by the US Navy
NEW DELHI :
The high-profile Malabar naval exercises among the navies of US, India, Australia and Japan, began on Thursday off the coast of Guam in the western Pacific in keeping with the resolve of the four countries to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific in the face of an aggressively rising China.
According to the Indian Navy, a range of complex drills involving warships, aircraft and helicopters will be carried out during the four-day exercise, which is hosted this year by the US Navy.
The US Seventh Fleet, in a statement, said the exercise demonstrated the commitment among the like-minded nations to uphold a rules-based maritime order in the Indo-Pacific.
The Indian Navy has deployed its stealth frigate INS Shivalik, anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kadmatt and a fleet of P8I maritime surveillance aircraft in the 25th edition of the drills that began as a bilateral exercise between India and the US in the 1990s. Japan joined India and the US as a partner in 2015 with Australia being invited for the drills by India last year. The exercises, hosted by India, were held in two phases in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
The four countries constitute the Quad—a loose grouping of countries that have come together to ensure open sea lanes of communication among other things. China has viewed the Quad and the exercises with suspicion, seeing the drills as an effort to contain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The US Pacific Fleet's Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry, naval special warfare forces, maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft from Task Force 72, and military sealift command's Henry J Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock are among the assets deployed by the US Navy in the exercise.
"Malabar-21 would witness complex exercises including anti-surface, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare drill, and other manoeuvres and tactical exercises. The exercise will provide an opportunity for participating navies to derive benefit from each other's expertise and experiences," Indian Navy spokesman Commander Vivek Madhwal said.
The US 7th Fleet said the first phase of the exercise was an opportunity for the four Indo-Pacific navies to operate together to strengthen their skills in "combined maritime operations, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, live-fire gunnery events, replenishments-at-sea and cross-deck flight operations."
"Malabar 21 is an excellent opportunity to conduct multi-national training to hone warfighting and maritime security skillsets," said Captain Chase Sargeant, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 71 of US 7th Fleet.
"US destroyers closely integrating with our partners and allies builds the foundation for regional security and stability that benefits all Indo-Pacific nations," he said.
At an event organized by the New Delhi based Observer Research Foundation think tank on Wednesday, the Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command Admiral John Aquilino said the main aim of exercises like the Malabar series was to sharpen interoperability skills of the participating navies in the event of threats.
The US naval commander also pointed to the possibility of more like minded countries joining the Malabar naval exercise if India, US, Japan and Australia agree on it. The comment came against the backdrop of countries like the UK and Germany sending a carrier strike group and a frigate separately to the Indo-Pacific region. The two countries are among a growing handful of nations to outline an Indo-Pacific vision or strategy looking at freedom of navigation among other issues as the centre of economic gravity shifts to Asia.
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