Navy chief in Japan for quadrilateral Exercise Malabar, International Fleet Review - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.
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Saturday, 5 November 2022

Navy chief in Japan for quadrilateral Exercise Malabar, International Fleet Review

A Royal Australian Navy helicopter conducts a cross-deck landing on an Indian warship as part of inter-operability training


 

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 6th Nov 22

 

Underlining the importance that New Delhi is according to its growing defence engagement with Tokyo, Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) arrived in Japan for a visit from November 5-9.

 

In Japan, Kumar will attend the inauguration of the 2022 edition of Exercise MALABAR, being held off Yokosuka.Four countries – Australia, Japan, the US and India – will participate in the 30th anniversaryof Exercise MALABAR. 

 

Ahead of Exercise MALABAR, India’s CNS met his counterparts in the Royal Australian Navy, the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) and the US Navy on Saturday. 

 

Exercise MALABAR includes sophisticated naval drills, in which the four navies practice engaging a hostile power (a euphemism for China) that acted aggressively to block freedom of navigation and disrupt the shipping lanes in the Western Pacific. 

 

Exercise MALABAR, which was first held in 1992 as a bilateral naval exercise between the US and Indian navies, has steadily grown in size and sophistication. Along the way it co-opted the Australian and Japanese navies and incorporated actual warfighting drills – such as anti-submarine patrolling – that would come in use against China in an actual conflict.

 

“The leaders exchanged views on further enhancing inter-operability in future editions of MALABAR,” said the Indian ministry of defence (MoD).

 

In 2011, after China’s navy, called the People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLA(N), began patrolling the South China Sea aggressively and began occupying islands that were contested between China and other littoral states, President Barack Obama signalled his concern by announcing a “pivot to Asia.” This involved redeploying up to 60 per cent of the US Navy to the Western Pacific.

 

Strategist Bruce Jones stated, “The Western Pacific is becoming to today what East Germany was to the Cold War; the front line of tensions between the world’s leading military powers. Its deep waters have replaced the European heartland as the fault line of geopolitical tensions.”


The PLA(N) wants to dominate a maritime defence perimeter encompassing the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Gulf. These waters extend up to what is called the First Island Chain, running from Sakhalin in the north to Borneo in the south, along the Kuril Islands, Japan, Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the northern Philippines and Borneo. The PLA(N) believes this maritime space must be dominated for the physical security of China’s coastal economic powerhouses, for asserting its maritime claims, and for deterring Taiwan.


By the early 2000s a more ambitious Beijing embraced the “Far Seas” concept, looking several hundred kilometres further afield. This involves dominating the approaches to the Second Island Chain, which runs north-to-south from the eastern edge of the Japanese archipelago, along the line joining the Bonin and Marshal islands, the Marianas, Guam and the Palau archipelago.


China has partnered Russia and Iran in building naval capabilities. These three countries have stepped up joint naval exercises, including in the Mediterranean in 2015, the South China Sea in 2016, the Yellow Sea in 2018, and the East China Sea in 2019. Joint drills in 2019 and 2022 included Iran. 

 

In January 2022, China and Russia announced a partnership with “no limits” at a summit meeting in Beijing. As the two countries edge closer, Russia seems likely to agree to allow China access to its global network of overseas naval bases, providing it the global reach that it does not yet have.

 

In Japan, Kumar will also witness an International Fleet Review (IFR)at Yokosuka on Nov 6, conducted by the JMSDFto commemorate the 70thanniversary of its formation.

 

To participate in the IFR and Exercise MALABAR – 2022, two Indian warships – Indian Naval Ship (INS) Shivalik and Kamorta – have alreadyarrived in Yokosuka. This is a significantly smaller participation than during previous years.

 

Even so, the Indian MoD says that the presence of indigenously built Indian warshipsat these multi-national events will be an opportunity to showcase the country’s warship-building capabilities. 

 

“As one of the observer navies in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), the CNS will attend the 18th WPNS on November 7-8 at Yokohama, being hosted by Japan, as the current chair of WPNS,” announced the MoD.

 

India’s CNS would also be “interacting with his counterparts and other Heads of Delegations from close to 30 countries participating in the IFR, WPNS and MALABAR,” said the MoD.


Australian and Indian warships exercise together

 

Even as preparations continued for Exercise MALABAR, the Indian and Australian Navies conducted a Maritime Partnership Exercise in the Bay of Bengal from November 2-3. Australian Navy ships HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Anzac participated, along with Indian Navy ships INS Jalashwa and Kavaratti. According to an MoD release from New Delhi, “The exercises included tactical maneouvres, helicopter landings and amphibious operations.


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