The U.S. Navy is joining several other countries in the Bay of Bengal this week for the 24th iteration of Exercise Malabar, an India-led effort that comes amid increased tension between Beijing and New Dehli.
The guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain is joining the militaries of Australia, Japan and India in the exercise, which began in 1992, according to the Navy.
"Malabar provides an opportunity for like-minded navies, sharing a common vision of a more stable, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific, to operate and train alongside one another, Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, McCain’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “A collaborative approach toward regional security and stability is important now more than ever, to deter all who challenge a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
While the Navy’s announcement of the exercise does not state what the nations will specifically work on during the exercise, it notes that “a variety of high-end tactical training” will take place among the four nations, which all operate together regularly in the Indo-Pacific.
The exercise comes as China’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean continue to rankle New Dehli.
India sent a warship into the South China Sea after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in fighting with Chinese forces on the Himalayan border this summer, a move some Indian security analysts believe was a way to show Beijing India has military strength of its own, the Financial Times reported last month.
“There are many ways India can signal to China it is not happy with the Chinese approach to resolving our boundary problem. One way is … (to) raise the temperature at sea,” Abhijit Singh, a former Indian naval officer and head of the Observer Research Foundation’s maritime policy initiative, was quoted as saying by FT.
India’s invitation to Australia to participate in this year’s Malabar exercise, a first, is seen by some as a way for the nation to fortify its strategic alliances in order to blunt China’s goals to expand its influence into the Indo-Pacific, FT reported.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.