China deeply concerned with large scale naval drills involving arch rivals India-US and Japan
As the United States, India, and Japan gear up for the annual Malabar series of naval drills in the Indian Ocean on Monday, China said that it hopes the naval exercises aren’t aimed at “a third nation”.
The 10-day drills in the Bay of Bengal include warships from Japan, the US and India, which has deployed its largest-ever fleet. The warships began arriving on Friday.
“We hope that this kind of relationship and cooperation will not be directed against third country and that it will be conducive to the regional peace and security,” said a spokesperson for the Chinese government at a time when the Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a stand-off at the Sikkim border.
The Malabar exercises started out as India-US drills in 1992 but have included Japan every year from 2014. Australia was refused permission to join this year because of fears of antagonising China. The exercises are held in the Indian Ocean as well as close to the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims as its own.
Dozens of warships, submarines and aircraft will take part in the drills, which are aimed at getting the three powerful navies used to working together including for possible joint patrols across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
India has been concerned about at least six submarine deployments by China in the Indian Ocean since 2013 and with Chinese submarines docking in Sri Lanka and its long-time ally Pakistan to signal Beijing’s increasing influence in India’s immediate neighbourhood.
India and China have both refused to back out of a confrontation that began last month. China says Indian soldiers crossed Sikkim into its territory of Donglang (Doko La for India) and stopped the construction of a road. India and Bhutan say the land where the road is being built belongs to Bhutan. The last few weeks have seen Beijing issue near daily warnings including of “serious consequences” if India does not withdraw its soldiers.
The disputed area lies in a part referred to as the “tri-junction” of India, Tibet and Bhutan. India has said the new road is a serious security concern because it lies near the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a thin strip of land that connects India to its seven northeastern states.
Today, the tension was somewhat defused in Germany where Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines the G-20 summit. Despite China yesterday stating aggressively that there would be no bilateral meeting -India retaliated that it hadn’t asked for one – the leaders talked informally at a session of BRICS which groups the economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.