US-India tighten defence cooperation as warships gather for Exercise Malabar, which begins on Tuesday - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 11 October 2021

US-India tighten defence cooperation as warships gather for Exercise Malabar, which begins on Tuesday

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 11th Oct 21


Illustrating the breadth and depth of the burgeoning US-India defence relationship, the bilateral India-US Defence Policy Group (DPG) met in Washington DC on Friday, even as the Indian and US navies prepare for a major multilateral exercise, Exercise Malabar, that will be held in the Bay of Bengal from Tuesday to Friday.


The first phase of Exercise Malabar was conducted in the Philippine Sea from August 26–29, with participation from the maritime forces of all four Quadrilateral Group countries.


As in the first phase, the second phase of Exercise Malabar, will include warships from the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN), in addition to the Indian Navy (IN) and the United States Navy (USN). 


The Malabar series of exercises, which began as an annual bilateral naval exercise between India and the US in 1992, has grown in scope, realism and complexity over the years, with scenarios now being painted of the ingress of warships and submarines from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) into the Indian Ocean, and ways to counter them.


“The current 25th edition of Malabar… is reflective of the commitment of the participating countries to support a  free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific as well as a rules-based international order,” stated a press release from India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Sunday.


A senior IN admiral, speaking anonymously, points out that it is no coincidence that the press release is framed in the language of confrontation with China.


All four navies have fielded frontline warships for this edition of Malabar. The IN has sent a destroyer INS Ranvijay, a frigate INS Satpura, P-8I Poseidon long range maritime patrol aircraft and a submarine. The US Navy will be represented by the Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson and two destroyers, USS Lake Champlain and USS Stockdale. The JMSDF will field the helicopter carrier, JS Kaga, and a destroyer, JS Murasame. The RAN will be represented by HMAS Ballarat and HMAS Sirius. 


On September 15, the US further reinforced the military architecture for confronting China, joining hands with the UK and Australia to create an “enhanced trilateral security partnership” named AUKUS (Australia – UK – US).


Signalling that AUKUS meant business, its first announcement was that the UK and US would provide Australia with the classified technology and wherewithal needed to build and operate up to eight nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs).


“The second phase of the (Malabar) exercise would build upon the synergy, coordination and inter-operability developed during the first phase of the exercise and would focus on  advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings,” stated the IN.


Defence policy group (DPG) meeting


The 16th meeting of the India-US DPG last week in Washington was co-chaired by India’s Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Colin Kahl. 


The two sides discussed ways of “operationalising the India-US major defence partnership, military-to-military engagements, implementation of foundational defence agreements, defence exercises, strengthening technology cooperation and defence trade.”


Both sides shared regional security perspectives and practical ways of working together to promote shared interests in the Indo Pacific region. 


The co-chairs reviewed the progress made by various bilateral defence initiatives and mechanisms. “They took stock of the joint project to co-develop air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). 


“The two sides also welcomed the first Industrial Security Agreement meeting in India to facilitate high-end defence industrial collaboration,” said the Indian MoD.


Both sides welcomed the cooperation in new domains such as space, artificial intelligence, cyber and counter UAV technologies. 


The two sides also reviewed preparations for the forthcoming India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. 

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