ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Should India Be a Member of the Sheriff's Posse?

War games in the China seas have ominous implications.

On 18 May, four Indian warships set out on a two-and-a-half month deployment in the South China and East China Seas, more generally, the north-west Pacific, ostensibly to ensure “freedom of navigation” over there. Of course, the Indian Navy is not alone—it is there to, among other things, carry out joint military exercises (“war games”) with the navies of the United States and Japan. Washington and New Delhi are supposedly furthering the “US–India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region,” signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama in January 2015, which aims at “safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over-flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.” The “war games” are an extension of “Exercise Malabar” involving the US and Indian navies with the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force as a regular partner since 2014.

“Exercise Malabar” has gone a long way since it was first launched in 1992 when New Delhi initiated its foreign-policy somersault in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War. The ninth Malabar exercise, held in 2007, was perhaps the first one that went beyond the Indian Ocean, in this case, off the Japanese island of Okinawa, and the Japanese navy subsequently came on board first in 2009, again in 2011, and then regularly since 2014. In 2007, Australia and Singapore participated in military exercises in the Bay of Bengal. So what is new about these geopolitical manoeuvres?

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