India and the US had kicked off the Malabar exercise back in 1994. Photograph: (Zee News Network)
The Malabar Naval Exercise being conducted by India, Japan and the United States is a "strategic message" to China, a top US official said on Monday.
"I would like to say this is a strategic message to China. It (the message) would also be the same to Canada or to the Republic of Korea or to Australia or to any other maritime force," US Navy Commander, Rear Admiral William D Byrne Jr told the press after the inauguration of the five-day Malabar Naval Exercise, here.
"Operating together and practising together is a good thing. It is because -- we are better together and we learn from each other. We know who we are and what is our capability. That is the strategic message to the entire world. I think, we are setting a great example here in Malabar (exercise) 2017", he added.
Asked whether the exercise had anything to do with the situation prevailing around North Korea, the US Commander said, "There are certainly global threats. Malabar is not focused on any specified threat. It is directed towards three countries India, Japan and United States. It is not directed towards any specific country or threat."
A top official of the Indian Navy, however, clarified that the naval drill had nothing to do with the the stand-off between India and China in Doklam near Sikkim.
"The Process of Malabar exercise starts a year before ( its scheduled beginning) and the initial planning takes place six months in advance. The stand-off you are talking about has got nothing to do with the Malabar exercise," Indian Flag Officer, Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command, HCS Bisht said.
The three countries have deployed warships, submarines and aircraft in the seven-day naval drill.
India and the US had kicked off the Malabar exercise back in 1994, this is the 21st edition of the drills.
“Indian, Japanese and US maritime forces have a common understanding and knowledge of a shared working environment at sea. Each iteration of this exercise helps to advance the level of understanding between our sailors, and we hope to be able to continue this process over time,” the US navy statement said.
The naval exercise was spearheaded by India's aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, Japan's largest warship JS Izumo, and US carrier Nimitz.
America's guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton, guided-missile destroyers USS Howard and USS Shoup and USS Kidd will be part of the drill, the US has informed.
According to media reports, Indian Navy's two Shivalik class multi-role frigates, a Kora class missile frigate, two destroyers, P8I maritime surveillance aircraft, anti-submarine warfare corvettes, tanker INS Jyoti and the nuclear submarine will also be part of the exercise. Japan is sending its destroyer JS Sazanami for the Malabar exercise.
India's neighbour China is keeping a close vigil over the Malabar exercise by deploying surveillance ship even as the Chinese foreign ministry in a statement said, "no objection to normal bilateral relations and cooperation among relevant countries' but 'hope[s] this kind of relations and cooperation is not directed at any third party and conducive to regional peace and stability."
China's state-run media is also weary of the Malabar exercise with an English language newspaper raising "concern" over the tri-nation naval drill.
India and China have been involved in an aggressive border row in Doka La area near the Bhutan tri-junction in the past one month. Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Doka La, while China claims it is part of its Donglang region.