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Japan to Join U.S.-India Military Exercises

Discussion in 'S.E. Asia' started by Layman, Jul 23, 2014.

  1. Layman

    Layman Colonel Senior Member

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    Japan to Join U.S.-India Military Exercises


    Warships from India, Japan and the U.S. will participate in joint exercises in the Pacific Ocean near Japan starting Thursday—a sign of greater maritime cooperation among nations in Asia as they face a more assertive China.

    Ties between New Delhi and Tokyo have strengthened as geopolitical tensions in the region have mounted, and Japan was invited in January to join the so-called Malabar exercise, an annual event that has been primarily a bilateral U.S.-Indian operation.

    Beijing, fearing a U.S.-led effort to contain China’s rise, reacted angrily when Japan, Australia and Singapore joined the maneuvers in 2007. Japan also participated in 2009, after which until this year, no third party was invited again.

    India and Japan are both embroiled in territorial disputes with China and share worries about Beijing’s military ambitions. Analysts in India say New Delhi’s decision to invite Japan this year signals a more confident and forceful maritime policy.

    “It is a reflection of the new strategic environment where there is a degree of unease in India and elsewhere over Chinese activities,” said Uday Bhaskar, a former Indian naval officer who is now at the New Delhi-based Society for Policy Studies. “To deal with the rise of China, India is now seeking to shape the environment by building collective capability.”

    Mr. Bhaskar, who had criticized India’s decision to back down from multilateral exercises after 2007, said India seeks a multipolar Asia and maritime cooperation is a smart way to achieve its goal.

    India and Japan started conducting bilateral exercises in 2012. In January this year, the countries’ coast guards staged joint maneuvers in the Arabian Sea. And ties between the Asian democracies are poised to strengthen further under new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has close relations with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe.

    Chinese officials couldn’t be reached to comment on Japan’s participation in the training this year.

    Japan, backed by the U.S., has launched a diplomatic offensive to draw other Asian countries into a more united front against China, which has been butting heads with its neighbors in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

    India, likewise, has accused Chinese troops of making repeated incursions into Indian-controlled parts of the Himalayas. The two countries fought a 1962 war over their Himalayan border.

    Indian officials have also grown concerned about China’s presence in the Indian Ocean, which India sees as within its sphere of influence and which encompasses critical transit routes for shipments of Mideast oil to India as well as to China, Japan and the rest of East Asia. Beijing has bankrolled port construction in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and its navy has been more active in the region.

    China, for its part, has sought to improve economic relations with India. Chinese officials have reached out to Mr. Modi and the two countries, along with other Brics nations, recently signed a deal for a new development bank to challenge the Western-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

    “India is hedging its bets by taking its relations with both China and Japan forward,” said K. Raja Menon, a former assistant chief of India’s naval staff who is now an analyst at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. “This is smart diplomacy.”

    A spokesman for the Indian navy said a frigate, a destroyer, a supply vessel and 800 personnel from India will participate in the weeklong joint exercises, which will include antipiracy and antiterrorism drills. Spokesman D.K. Sharma said the exercises will prepare the countries “for situations when their navies have to work together tactically.”

    As part of the U.S.’s strategic pivot to Asia, the U.S. has announced plans to shift a bulk of its naval assets to the region within the next decade and increase the number of military exercises it conducts. Mr. Bhaskar said India should seek to make China “a stakeholder in the goal of created collective capabilities rather than an adversary.”

    Despite tensions between China and the U.S., the Chinese navy is participating in monthlong U.S.-led naval drills that are being viewed by officials on both sides as evidence of an improving military relationship. But the U.S. Pacific Fleet says China has sent an uninvited surveillance ship to international waters off Hawaii to monitor the drills, underlining the wariness in the relationship.

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