India-US-Japan Malabar Exercise, New Delhi Independence Foreign Policy and Self-Confidence

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This really is a great coincidence that the 10-day annual India-US-Japan Malabar naval exercise commenced at the same time (on July 10) when India and China are locked in a significant confrontation in the Sikkim region. India could not have timed it greatly to send a maritime danger to China as a rebuff to the latter’s intimidating position in the Himalayan region. In the end, the Malabar exercise can be an annual event and its own timings are determined and preparations are completed, at least, half a year beforehand. The Sikkim boundary bedlam which is hardly a month-old could not have been expected while arranging the Malabar drill.

But there is absolutely no gainsaying that the India-US naval exercise has come to stand for, within the last many years, a joint deal with to counter the increasing Chinese domination in the territorial waters of the spot. Both India and the United States are timid in admitting it in so many words; normally so, as both countries do not need to openly antagonize an increasing superpower like China. But every concerned person recognizes it completely that the annual exercise is a regular reminder to China to rein in its expansionist designs. In the end, China has been flexing its muscles in its backyard, the South China Sea, from the past some years, forcing countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and the Brunei, which can be mainly aligned with the United States, to come under its umbrella.

The Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte has slightly drifted from the United States and made common cause with China in the desire of larger economic aid. The United States is surely worried that its domination in the territorial waters worldwide has been challenged by the Chinese. So that it wants reliable associates to checkmate China all over the place. It suits India as well as China is the only country (except Pakistan), which has been engaged in an adversarial relationship for a long time. The bigger risk is the fact Pakistan has turned into a satellite country of China. The China-Pakistan partnership, both military and economic, is writ large. On the other hand, China has helped Pakistan to build up its nuclear ability; they have provided military service jets and submarines to Pakistan.

They have helped develop the Gwadar port in Pakistan, which would help China access the Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean. China has spent 46 billion (US Dollars) to develop China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. In a natural way, India must be cautious with China, which is speedily growing as a regional domination. So, the US and India have a shared purpose to contain China. The Malabar exercise is intended to precisely do this, although diplomatic sophistry explains it as a regular maritime drill. It had been the foresight of P V Narasimha Rao, the prime minister in the 1990s – when the Cold War emerged to finish with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the international relationships underwent an enormous churning – that India persuaded the United States to get together to safeguard their respective interests in the territorial waters.

The joint exercise started out in 1992 in a moderate way; it continued to acquire higher muscle in the succeeding years. The Manmohan Singh government took the exercise several notches higher; in 2007, India asked Japan, Australia, and Singapore to participate the drill. The five-nation joint exercise enraged China to this extent which it issued demarches from the movement. Then, Australia supported right out of the subsequent strategic dialogue (Quadrilateral Security Initiative) fearing the Chinese reaction. The action of Australian annoyed India to no end. Now, that Australia is suffering the Chinese heat again and it desires to liberate from the Chinese domination, it’s been earnestly asking for India to re-admit it in the annual exercise. Interestingly, India has stubbornly refused to consent to Australia’s request. Australia even requested to get an observer position in the Malabar exercise; but, after dithering over it for a long period, India has finally turned down the plea previous month.

There’s a lingering view that India still appears after Australia as an unreliable strategic partner. Several in India view Australia’s mushrooming economic and political ties with China with suspicion. “A section of New Delhi’s policy elite believes that China’s associations in Australia are so vast and intricate that Beijing may even have infiltrated the Canberra’s political establishment,” an Analyst said. While has restarted Australia’s entreaties, it has already established no hesitation in embracing Japan for just two reasons: first, Japan has also been within an adversarial association with China and will be a strategic Asian Ally of India in any case of maritime discord in the region. Secondly, the United States has been pressing the situation of Japan to create an India-Japan relationship to oppose the Chinese designs. However, Japan first became a member of the exercise in 2014. It has turned into a long lasting fixture in the three-nation naval exercise since 2015.

By confessing Japan to be an institutional area of the trilateral naval exercise, India has upped the ante against China. There is certainly, of course, without a doubt, that China is significantly before India, both financially and militarily. But India today is able to show it is no more an easy target. India’s supreme self-confidence was express when the PM Narendra Modi government made a decision to boycott the One Road, One Belt (OBOR) initiative of China; it also offered a pass up to the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) showcased by Beijing in May this year in which almost 100 countries (like the US, Japan, and South Korea) and 29 heads of state (including the likes of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president) participated. India didn’t even send its ambassador in Beijing as a token representation as it wished to home its objection to the creation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in the disputed place occupied by Pakistan.

India’s self-assuredness is again visible from its strict position in the Doklam boundary dispute; it has truly gone ahead and halted Chinese construction of a road in the disputed place and refused to close off despite the serious risks from the Chinese authorities. The Malabar exercise is one more assertion of India’s self-esteem to conduct its international policy on its terms, undeterred by the dispositions by other forces. The independent foreign plan is a legacy that India has succeeded in carrying on regardless of the changes in governments as well as policy instructions

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