Malabar exercise: India, US Japan go submarine-hunting in a veiled warning to China


Malabar exercise: India, US Japan go submarine-hunting in a veiled warning to China

NEW DELHI: India, the US and Japan have kicked off a joint 10-day naval exercise, Malabar, in the Bay of Bengal on the high seas off Chennai, with China in the cross hairs. Though its an annual exercise which has been taking place since 1992, it is important this time as it is happening in the backdrop of a standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on the Sikkim border.

The exercise involves around 15 warships, two submarines and scores of fighter jets, surveillance aircraft and helicopters. 

For the first time, the country's solitary aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya will take part in a fully fledged combat exercise with foreign countries since it was commissioned in November 2013. The US has fielded USS Nimitz, a nuclear-powered super-carrier with its full complement of F A-18 fighters. Japan is fielding its 27,000-tonne helicopter carrier Izumo. 

Malabar carries a clear signal for China which has lately expanded its operations in the Indian Ocean. An unusually large number of Chinese warships and submarines have been sighted in the Indian Ocean in the last two months. 

Izumu, the new Japanese warship which can carry nine helicopters, is meant for anti-submarine warfare. It can be said Malabar has 'submarine-hunting' as its theme this time. India and the US have also deployed their Poseidon-8 long-range maritime patrol aircraft which can spot submarines. 

A few days ago, a Chinese Yuan-class conventional submarine was spotted in the Indian Ocean. The same submarine was spotted by Indian Navy's Poseidon-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft as soon as it crossed the Malacca Strait on April 19-20. 

This is the seventh Chinese submarine to enter the region since December 2013. 

Pentagon's latest annual report has mentioned increasing activity of the Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean. It says China continues to send submarines to the Indian Ocean, ostensibly in support of its counterpiracy patrols. 

In May 2016, a nuclear-powered attack submarine conducted a port call in Karachi, Pakistan, during a visit by the People's Liberation Army Navy Commander, marking China's first port call in South Asia by a nuclear submarine. 

The report says such submarine patrols demonstrate China's emerging capability to increase its power projection into the Indian Ocean. 

The focus of the Malabar exercise on submarines is a clear warning to China which is trying to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean through its strong submarine force.

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