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Japan to join India and US navies in Malabar 2014

July 18, 2014 11:31 IST

In an effort to strengthen the tri-lateral cooperation, Japan will participate in this year's Malabar naval exercise to be held at the end of this month, with India and the US.

"Japan will participate in MALABAR this year which is our largest bilateral naval exercise with India and it's scheduled to take place at the end of this month," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Amy Searight told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing on Thursday.

The Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal said there is strong trilateral partnership between the three countries.

"We were about to hold the fifth iteration of the US-India-Japan trilat earlier this summer. We have had to reschedule that but we have seen a tremendous growth in the amount of collaboration that we're able to have, not only in terms of sharing of intelligence and analysis but also looking at active areas of cooperation," she said.

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The Malabar series has historically been an Indo-US affair, but its scope has widened with Japan being invited for the annual naval engagement.

"We will be doing joint exercises with Japan and India in the MALABAR exercises later this fall.  And we see opportunities for increasing the collaboration across Southeast Asia. We are engaging more frequently in consultations and dialogue with the Indians on ASEAN and look forward to increased and frequent consultations across the East Asia sphere," Biswal said while replying to a question from Senator John McCain.

Lisa Curtis of The Heritage Foundation said there's a realm opportunity to build the US-India-Japan trilateral cooperation.

In the past few years India has focused increasingly on buttressing security ties with Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam to meet the challenges of a rapidly rising China, she said.

"Indo–Japanese ties, in particular, are expected to get a major boost under Modi's administration since Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are both increasingly concerned about China and appear prepared to take new policy directions to deal with the challenges posed by Beijing's rapid military and economic ascendance," Curtis said.

Both the heads of state, Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi have developed a close personal rapport, she said.

"As Chief Minister, Modi traveled to Japan in 2007, marking the first time an Indian Chief Minister had travelled to the country. Modi was one of the first foreign dignitaries to congratulate Abe when he was re-elected in 2012. The recent postponement of Modi's visit to Japan is all the more perplexing, given the history of the personal relationship between Abe and Modi," she added.