The 26th edition of the multinational maritime exercise Malabar 22 culminated in the seas off Japan recently.

 

Details

  • This edition also marked the 30th anniversary of the exercise and was hosted by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
  • The Indian Navy was represented by Eastern Fleet ships Shivalik and Kamorta.

 

What is Malabar Exercise?

Exercise Malabar is a quadrilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan, India and Australia as permanent partners. Originally begun in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the United States, Japan became a permanent partner in 2015. Australia joined the exercise as a permanent member in 2020. Past non-permanent participants are Australia and Singapore.

 

Background –

  • Malabar Naval exercises between India and the US has been an ongoing affair since 1992. After a brief interlude due to India’s 1998 nuclear tests and the imposition of sanctions, the exercise became an annual feature since 2002.
  • Initially pitched at a basic level of naval drills between the US and India, Malabar 2005 involved the participation of the aircraft carriers of both navies for the first time.
  • In Malabar 2006, a complete US expeditionary strike group and Coast Guard ships of both navies participated in anti-piracy drills, pollution control, search and rescue, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) techniques, all of which were in consonance with the prevailing and perceived maritime threats.

 

Objectives of Malabar Exercise –

  • The primary aim of the exercise was to increase interoperability amongst the navies of India, Japan and the US as well as develop a common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.
  • The exercise is a demonstration of the joint commitment of all four nations to address common maritime challenges across the spectrum of operations and will go a long way in enhancing maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region for the benefit of the global maritime community.

 

Significance –

  • The Indo-Pacific region holds immense geo-political and geo-strategic significance for navies around the world.
  • The challenges of piracy, maritime terrorism, organised crime like drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, trafficking of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related material, all have forced navies to conduct joint patrols and provide escort duties for shipping assets.
  • In conjunction with these non-conventional challenges, the challenge to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, unrelenting firing of missiles by North Korea and apprehension of non-accessibility of crucial choke points have elicited varying responses from the stake holders.
  • Such exercises have also resulted in better training, improved readiness, and evolution of standard operating procedures (SOPs) as well as facilitated joint operations and increased the trust quotient among participating sides.
  • The employment of hi-tech equipment in these exercises not only helps show-case superior technology, whose efficacy is keenly watched, but also leads to subsequent procurement deals thereby further boosting inter-operability and integration. The Poseidon Eight India (P8I) long range maritime patrol aircraft procured by India from the US is a pertinent example in this regard.

 

Controversies and subsequent increasing of pace –

  • In June 2007, days before the first-ever official-level security consultation between the US, India, Japan and Australia, China issued demarches to each of the participants seeking to know the purpose behind their meeting.
  • The Chinese reaction revealed the degree of suspicion with which it had started viewing such naval exercises. From 2009 onwards, all Malabar exercises have increased in complexity to include surface and anti-submarine warfare, coordinated gunnery exercises, air defence, employment of aircraft and submarines, VBSS drills and other high-end manoeuvres for exigencies likely to be encountered at sea.
  • The sea-phase of the exercises has been conducted almost alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans since 2009, and Japan has been participating in these exercises whenever they were conducted in the waters of the Pacific Ocean in its vicinity.