By Ramanand Garge, Vivekananda International Foundation, 04 December 2015
The strategically significant Joint India-US Naval exercise MALABAR-2015, hosted by India between October 14 and 21, 2015, conducted in the Bay of Bengal, in many ways, illustrates the growing multi-faceted military cooperation between India and the US and underpins their collective effort to define the strategic contours of the Indo-Pacific security.
The MALABAR was noteworthy this year for the trilateral nature it acquired with Japanese participation, signifying a major shift in India’s approach in relation to the evolving contemporary security calculus of the Indo-Pacific region. It may be mentioned here that MALABAR was initially designed as an annual event when it started in 1992 as a joint naval exercise between the navies of India and the US.. It was institutionalized under the India-US Defence Framework Agreement signed in June 2005. This has now been extended for a further period of 10 years under an agreement signed by US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on June 03, 2015.
Japan, it may be mentioned here, had earlier participated in MALABAR exercises in 2007, 2009 and 2014. The Japanese participation on a regular basis in a trilateral initiative could eventually become an integral part of the strengthened strategic relations between India, US and Japan. However, the US pressure to further upgrade it by including Australia as well is still a work in progress on which India is yet to take a final call, although it must be pointed out that the Indian Navy has recently held a highly successful joint exercise AUSINDEX – 15 with the Australian Navy off India’s East Coast.