“Exercise has nothing to do with China”, drills included anti-submarine warfare
On board the USS Nimitz in Bay of Bengal: In the most significant statement at the just-concluded Malabar naval exercise, the US Commander leading the Nimitz battle group said that the drills would help the US and Japanese navies to come to assist in case of an international crisis in the Indian Ocean region.
“In case of an international crisis, the Japanese would come, the US Navy would come to assist. And because of Malabar we know each other better and we would be able to come together immediately. To co-operate better and to address any maritime challenges that we might face,” Rear Admiral William Byrne said on board the USS Nimitz.
While there has been growing concern about the increasing presence of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean– more than 13 Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships are being tracked in the region at present – both the US and India insist that Malabar is not aimed at China or any other country.
The Indian side has said that the exercise was planned much in advance and cannot be related to the border stand-off in Bhutan in which Indian and Chinese troops are camped against each other for over a month.
“This exercise has nothing to do with China or the present stand-off. In fact, we had planned this long ago and this has been a regular feature,” said Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet Commander.
The focus on anti-submarine operations, however, indicated that the increasing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region did weigh in on the planning. The Los Angeles Class nuclear attack boat of the US Navy and a Kilo class Indian submarine undertook several drills to skill sailors to detect underwater threats in the murky waters off the Indian coast.
While there had been murmurs about the presence of a Chinese spy ship in nearby waters prior to the exercise, officials said that no such warship had been detected during the Malabar war game.