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U.S. Navy ships in formation with Indian navy ships during Exercise Malabar 2012 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans).

Japan Makes Three: India, U.S. Trilateralize Malabar Naval Drills

Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015

Last month, after years of hedging on the issue, India agreed to include Japan as a permanent participant in its annual Malabar naval exercises with the United States, set this year for October. Japan has participated in the Malabar exercises before, but only as an invited observer. The decision to expand the Malabar exercises is a significant turning point not just for India’s role in the region, but also for the development of the trilateral relationship among the U.S., Japan and India. This long-underperforming trilateral partnership brings together the U.S. and the two largest and most influential democracies in the Indo-Pacific region. It also dovetails perfectly with the Obama administration’s commitment to “rebalancing” to Asia with an emphasis on encouraging its allies and key partners to share more of the load.

The Malabar naval exercises have been taking place since 1992 and are the main forum for military cooperation between the U.S. and India. While the exercises have been opened up to other allies and partners previously, until now, that has always been on an ad-hoc basis. Other participants in the Malabar exercises over the years have included Australia and Singapore, as well as Japan in recent years. Last year, Tokyo even co-hosted the exercises at the U.S. Naval Base in Sasebo, Japan. ...

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