Australia may have been missing from this year’s edition of the Malabar naval exercise but it will join India, Japan and the US in a ‘group sail’ to the world’s largest wargames later this month.
Warships of the four nations will traverse the Pacific for over a week to arrive for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise at Hawaii. While warships of the four nations–being increasingly termed as the Quadrilateral in the Indo Pacific – will sail together, China has been disinvited from this year’s edition of RIMPAC.
Australia, which had taken part in the Malabar series of exercises in 2007 — invoking a strong reaction from Beijing about a possible military containment arrangement—has been keen to come back to the wargames. India, however, is being cautious given the attempts to normalise relations with China following the tense standoff at Dokalam last year.
The quadrilateral sail for RIMPAC will consist of the INS Sahyadri, the Japanese helicopter destroyer Ize, US pacific fleet vessels, besides the Australian component. While no exercises are planned on the way, a joint sail helps in familiarisation of naval drills.
“One of our ships, INS Sahyadri will continue from Malabar to participate at RIMPAC. A group sail is planned from June 17 onwards and they will get together and sail for Hawaii. Our two remaining ships will go back to Vizag,” Rear Admiral Dinesh K Tripathi, the Eastern Fleet Commander who is leading the Indian delegation to Malabar, told ET.
RIMPAC will consist of 26 nations, 47 warships, five submarines and over 200 aircraft taking part in a variety of drills from anti-submarine operations, joint ground attack, air defence and anti-piracy drills. An Indian Navy P8I maritime aircraft will also be stationed in Hawaii for the exercise. Over 25,000 personnel are expected to be part of the biennial exercise that is to commence on June 27. The theme of the exercise this year is “Capable, Adaptive, Partners.”
“It’s a different challenge and opportunity, participating with 26 nations and such a large number of sailors. It will be a big learning, will be a great month or so for the ship,” Rear Admiral Tripathi said.
The reason for the withdrawal of the invitation for RIMPAC has been China’s continued aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea that the host, US, sees as ‘inconsistent’ to the values of the exercise. The Chinese Navy, which shadowed Indian warships on the way to Malabar, has been aggressively patrolling international waters that Beijing now claims as its own.