India and the US are all decided to conduct naval exercise Malabar in the Bay of Bengal in July, the first significant military drill after Donald Trump took over as President. Japan’s Maritime Self-Protection Force will also participate in the naval exercise that will be longer and more complicated than all previous editions. Earlier, the world’s oldest serving aircraft carrier, INS Viraat was decommissioned and had been withdrawn from service, thus ending a 56-year-long sea odyssey.
Indian Navy authorizations said a planning conference would be held soon in the US to firm up the dates and warships that will take part in the exercise. It will be reflected by a final planning conference in India where the scenarios to be simulated during the exercise to boost the abilities of the participating navies for joint operations will be finalized.
China has been questionable of the trilateral engagement and has even lodged protests over Japan’s participation. Beijing is presumed to carefully monitor the exercise at a time when the Chinese navy is expanding its footstep in the Indian Ocean region.
An Indian Navy officer said the exercises could see the participation of aircraft transmitters, nuclear-powered submarines, and frontline warships. He stated the P-8I and the P-8A ‘submarine hunter’ planes of the Indian and US navies would also be required in the drills, simulating anti-submarine warfare missions.
The two concurrently inducted P-8 platform, a military derivative of Boeing‘s 737-800 commercial aircraft and christened P-8A for the US Navy four years ago. “The exact combination of the participating units will be known after the final planning conference is over. But the drills will be more complicated than any previous engagement,” he added.
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In 2015, India and the US renewed a significant pact to deepen bilateral defense cooperation in numerous security-related areas. The US-India Defence Structure Agreement aims to strengthen military-to-military engagements, improve technical collaboration and bolster overall strategic partnership till 2025.
India and the US are in the terminal stages of operationalising the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that sets the guidelines for the two militaries to assign each other’s assets and facilities for repair, preservation, supplies and training on an equal-value exchange basis.
The US has already presented its list of logistics points of contacts and is waiting for India to reciprocate. Defense ministry sources said India had prepared a list and would share it with the US promptly to operationalise the pact signed last year.
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