The navies of India and the US, along with Japanese Maritime – Self Defense Force (JMSF), are set to begin the annual joint naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal, amidst tension in the disputed South China Sea.
This year’s Malabar Exercise marks the participation of Japan as a permanent member in the annual drill. The JMSF joined the exercise in 2007, 2009, and 2014 as a foreign invitee.
Malabar 2015 is the first such event in the Bay of Bengal in eight years.
Indian navy spokesman Captain D K Sharma was quoted by Reuters as saying: "These exercises are all-encompassing, starting from one end of the spectrum to another, including anti-piracy operations, visit, board, search and seize and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief."
The exercise will see the participation of US Navy vessels, including USS Theodore Roosevelt, Normandy, Forth Worth and City of Corpus Christi, as well as P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft.
The Indian Navy will send Rajput-class destroyer, Shivalik and Brahmaputra-class frigates, fleet support ship and INS Sindhudhwaj in addition to P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft.
The Japanese force will deploy its Akizuki-class guided missile destroyer.
Japan’s permanent participation in the drill has raised concerns on the Chinese side.
China objected to the participation of Japan, Australia and Singapore in the exercise in 2007.
Media reports have cited Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying as saying: "You mentioned India is having naval exercises with US and Japan and you ask whether China is concerned.
"I think you are thinking too much…Everyday a lot of activities take place around the world. We cannot connect every activity with China."
The exercises come at a time when the US is planning to send its warships around the Spratly islands in the South China Sea.
The decision contests Chinese territorial claims to the artificial islands, where the country has reportedly begun construction of its first runway.
Image: The US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt will participate in the Malabar naval exercise this year. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by photograher’s mate 2nd Class (AW) Robert R McRill.