South China Sea Current Affairs
Trilateral Naval Exercise Malabar 2018 between India, Japan and United States will be held off the coast of Guam in Philippine Sea from June 6-15, 2018. It will be 22nd edition of the naval exercise. The exercise comes at time of increased friction between China and US along with nations bordering resource rich South China Sea (SCS) as China is militarising reclaimed islands in it to further strengthen its claim.
This edition of annual exercise will focus on high-end war fighting skillsets, subject matter expert and professional exchanges. It will also include combined carrier strike group operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare, medical operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, damage control, helicopter operations and visit, board, search and seizure operations.
Indian Navy participation in this year’s exercises will include indigenous stealth frigate INS Sahyadri, fleet tanker INS Shakti, anti-submarine corvette INS Kamorta and P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft. Japan is deploying its helicopter carrier JDS Ise along with Kawasaki P-1 aircraft maritime patrol aircraft and Soryu class conventional submarines. US is sending its aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan along with strike complement of destroyers, nuclear attack submarines and support ships in addition to P-8A maritime patrol aircraft.
Malabar Exercise was started as Indo-US bilateral naval war drill in 1992. Since then it is held annually. Japan had formally joined the exercise as permanent participant in 2015, making it trilateral exercise. The primary aim of this multilateral exercise is to increase interoperability amongst navies of three countries and develop common understanding of procedures for Maritime Security Operations and deepen defence relations between them. In 2007, the exercise also saw participation of Australia and Singapore. All the participating nations in the exercise have clarified earlier that the Malabar series is not aimed at any specific country.
India and Singapore have signed Bilateral Agreement for Navy Cooperation that will allow Indian Navy ships logistical support, including refuelling at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base located near disputed South China Sea (SCS).
The agreement was announced during second Defence Ministers’ Dialogue between India and Singapore held in New Delhi.
The Bilateral Agreement for Navy Cooperation will allow Indian Navy ships sailing through disputed SCS or in eastern waters of Andaman Sea to refuel, restock and if needed rearm at Singapore’s Changi naval base. It will allow Indian Navy to directly engage with Singaporean authorities to use their facilities unlike present structure that take weeks if political clearances need to be obtained in Singapore.
The naval logistics agreement is first for India with country located east of strategically important Strait of Malacca. Singapore is strategically situated on major international sea routes – Straits of Singapore and Malacca – and connects Pacific and Indian Oceans making it economically important. It acts as centre for international communications, transportations and trade to southeast Asia. The nearest Indian base is in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The agreement looks at increased cooperation in maritime security, joint exercises, temporary deployment between India and Singapore. The Changi base will enhance Indian Navy’s operational reach. It will also play prominent role in protection of naval vessels, supplies, repair facilities, administration and logistics support. It will give boost to India’s Act East Policy and strengthen India’s role for safety, stability, regional peace and navigational freedom.