The tri nation Naval exercise conducted by Navies of India, the US and Japan in the Bay of Bengal is an annual feature and was pre planned over a long period. However many an analysts are seeing it as an attempt to counterbalance Chinese moves to expand its footprint in the Indian Ocean …….though it is a footprint with hardly any footing. However this 21st edition of the drill named Malabar Exercise has this time coincided with the mounting border tensions between New Delhi and Beijing and therefore has attracted international attention on a much bigger scale.
The growing scale and complexity of Malabar Drills, deployment of Chinese ships to monitor the drills and the stand off between Chinese troops and Indian Army has made the exercise the centre piece of World News.
However this kind of exercises are just one of the five naval exercises by India among more than a dozen joint drills the Indian Navy carries out with international navies every year. India’s similar engagements with littoral countries are no less significant than Malabar Drills.The significance of some of these drills in the Indian Ocean region will grow further in the coming years. Even as China is trying to expand its maritime reach into the Indian Ocean. It has now picked Djibouti to set up its first overseas military base and ships carrying Chinese troops have already set sail. All these are only presenting juicy targets to Indian Navy in case there is a conflict ever in the IOR.
Some of the other joint drills the Indian Navy conducts every year are highlighted as under:
Though primarily to show its displeasure to Australia over their latest Visa regulations, New Delhi did not agree to Australian participation in Malabar drills. India and Australia have been conducting AUSINDEX drill in the Bay of Bengal since 2015. The objective of the biennial exercise is to bolster maritime cooperation and sharpen the ability to undertake operations such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. “The focus is on capability enhancement and capacity building for all in the Indian Ocean region,” a navy officer said.
This is a trilateral naval cooperation between India, Brazil and South Africa. IBSAMAR, was held for the first time in 2008. Now it has transformed into a complex exercise involving warships, aircraft and special forces from the three countries.
This Exercise commenced for the first time in 2003 on lines of the joint Army drills. INDRA is a joint naval exercise between India and Russia. Last held in the Bay of Bengal in December last year, the primary purpose of the exercise is to increase inter-operability between the two navies and develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.
This annual exercise is conducted jointly by India Navy and Britain’s Royal Navy. The two navies began joint drills in 2004. Like all bilateral exercises, Konkan is hosted in rotation by both navies and has grown in complexity, scale and intensity over the years.
Naseem Al Bahr
India and Oman have a close defence and friendship treaty. Therefore Indian Navy and the Royal Omani Navy have been holding this exercise since 1993. The focus in recent years have been on surface warfare, visit board search and seizure (VBSS), anti-air warfare and advanced helicopter operations.
This India and Sri Lanka joint drill began in 2005. The naval interaction is significant as Chinese warships frequent the island nation’s ports. Previous editions have covered anti-piracy drills, gun firing, cross-deck helicopter operations and anti-surface exercises.
With growing Naval cooperation and the Scorpene Submarine project French requested for this drill. This is an exercise between India and France ever since 1993 and was firmally christened VARUNA in 2001. The drills involve aircraft carriers of both navies. The navy says the engagement has promoted greater understanding between the two nations and helped pick up best practices from each other.
Other Indo-US exercises
Apart from Malabar, the Indian and US navies conduct a series of joint drills that cover explosive ordnance disposal Ex Spitting Cobra, salvage operations SALVEX and Indian Navy-US Navy Special Forces exercise.