The United States, Japan and India are set to take part in a joint naval wargame in Indian Ocean in October, Indian military and diplomatic sources announced on Wednesday.
Indian authorities decided to expand the scope of naval military drills as they added Japan to the “Malabar” exercises which has already included the US each year, a move that is expected to tighten political and security ties against China.
Military officials from the three countries will meet to discuss the proposed naval exercise at the Yokosuka naval base near Tokyo on Wednesday and Thursday, according to Indian and Japanese military and diplomatic sources who told Reuters in New Delhi and Tokyo.
"They are discussing platforms, logistics and interoperability between the three naval forces," the sources said.
The naval drill occupies a central place in India’s re-assertive maritime policies with the auspices of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who perceives Indian Ocean as a new area of competition with China and has been trying to recover India’s position as a dominant maritime power in the Asia-Pacific region.
India sided with its Asia-Pacific allies, the US and Japan as the Indian Ocean was also becoming a new global centre of trade and energy flows, given the fact that half of the world’s container traffic and 70 percent of its petroleum shipments passing through the water routes near the Sub-Indian continent.
In this sense, India needs the US and Japanese cooperation to ensure security of energy flows and territorial rights in Indian Ocean and its choke points such as the Malacca Straits in South Asia.
"India alone cannot assure the security of the Indian Ocean, even if it regards [it] as its backyard and wishes no one to compete with it there," Zhou Bo, an honorary fellow at the Beijing-based Academy of Military Science, wrote on the China Daily.
"If the Pacific Ocean is big enough to accommodate China and the U.S., so is the Indian Ocean to accommodate India and China," Bo added in his analysis.
India had made naval exercises with Japan in 2007 along with the US and Australia and that Singapore took part in the joint move in the Bay of Bengal, which then prompted Beijing’s discontent.
Japan’s participation to the Malabar naval drill has long been riling China which regards the Japanese act to take part with India and the US as a move of “containment” of its presence in the region.
However, Japan seemed eager to participate in the joint naval exercises with India and the US as the maritime tensions soared with China in both East and South China Seas where Beijing has long been exploring energy resources and claiming some territorial rights through building artificial islands.
Japanese Defence Ministry on Tuesday highlighted its concerns over China’s recent political and military presence and called China in an annual strategy paper to terminate "coercive attempt" at land reclamations and oil drills in the seas surrounding Japan.
Japan has no direct territorial claims in the South China Sea, but long been worrying over China’s assertiveness due to its commercial interests bound by the navigation through the straits and maritime channels in the region.
China has long been confronting with its maritime neighbours Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei in the South and East China Seas due to the rights of territorial waters and land reclamations.
The parties’ overlapping claims on maritime transportation, navigation, exclusive economic zones, fishing grounds, undersea bed gas and oil reserves have already deteriorated the problem as China started to build the artificial islands last year in addition to its oil exploration drills launched in 2012.
The US and Japan have already launched some joint naval exercises with Australia and the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean last month as a part of increasing security cooperation which started to annoy Beijing amid the South China Sea standoff with Washington.
The Pentagon believes that China has added some 2,000 acres (800 hectares) to five outposts in the Spratlys, including 1,500 acres since the start of this year.
The US officials claim that Chinese military complexes are now under construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly island including a 3,000-metre runway and that airborne early warning radars will be operational by the year end.
The US administration has reiterated several times that it will continue to patrol waters and skies of the long-disputed islands over which the Chinese navy has repeatedly warned the US surveillance plane to leave the airspace.