India, Japan and the Unoted States on Friday kicked off their marine war games, Malabar Exercise, close to the South China Sea as they focus on deeper military ties and greater interoperability amid rising tensions in the region.
The Indian Navy said that their ships Satpura, Sahyadri, Shakti and Kirch are participating in the 20th edition of the naval exercise in consonance with India's 'Act East Policy' and growing ties among the three countries.
The exercise will support maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region and benefit the global maritime community, the navy said.
The exercise assumes significance as it is being conducted close to South China Sea at a time when Chinese assertiveness in the region is a raging issue.
India and the US have regularly conducted the annual exercise since 1992. Since 2007, Malabar has been held alternatively off India and in the Western Pacific. Last year, it was conducted off Chennai and included participation of Japan.
While the harbour phase of the exercise started on Friday at Sasebo, the sea phase in the Pacific Ocean will be held from June 14 to 17.
"The primary aim of this exercise is to increase interoperability amongst the three navies and develop common understanding of procedures for Maritime Security Operations," the statement said.
Indian ships participating in the exercise are from the Eastern Fleet and include INS Sahyadri and INS Satpura, indigenously built guided missile stealth frigates, INS Shakti, a modern fleet tanker and support ship, and INS Kirch, an indigenous guided missile corvette.
The US Navy will be represented by aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis (CVN 74), Ticonderoga class Cruiser USS Mobile Bay and Arleigh Burke class destroyers USS Stockdale and USS Chung Hoon, all carrying helicopters.
In addition, one nuclear-powered submarine, carrier wing aircraft and long-range maritime patrol aircraft will also participate in the exercise.
Japan will be represented by Hyuga, a helicopter carrier with SH 60 K integral choppers and long-range maritime patrol aircraft, besides other advanced warships for specific parts of the exercise.
Additionally, the Special Forces of the three navies will also interact during the exercise.