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Curtains down for the Malabar exercises

Amidst heavy downpour, the naval ships of United States India and Japan came in a formation off the Chennai coast sending out a signal we are together as the trilateral Malabar exercises came to a close on July 17.

USS Nimitz of the U.S., India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, and Japan’s helicopter carrier and its largest warship JS Izumo, came up side by side in a symbolic gesture, with smaller ships in the group following suit as curtains went down for the week long exercises both sea and Chennai harbour phase.

Malabar 2017 exercise featuring 95 aircraft, 16 ships and two submarines, making it one of the largest naval exercises in the region in recent times came at a time when relations between all the three participating nations and China remain chill.

Right from the start Navy officials on record dismissed suggestions that the exercise was aimed at China. They maintained that the operation was to uphold freedom of movement, enforce the rule of law, and address common maritime challenges in the region.

“We are increasing interoperability and that is going to be the key,” Rear Admiral William D. Byrne Jr. Commander, Carrier Strike Group, 11, U.S. Navy, told reporters on board the U.S. aircraft carrier. A floating mini-city with 5,000 personnel on board, USS Nimitz is nuclear powered and has desalination plants for its water requirements. It is capable of operating about 90 aircraft at a time, an official on board the ship said.

“Perhaps in the future, if we have to come together for real — be it for a disaster relief effort or an anti-piracy operation or, God forbid, if there is an actual crisis in the Indian Ocean, the Japanese would come to assist, the US Navy would come to assist and because of Malabar, we will know each other better, we will be able to cooperate better, and meet any maritime challenges we might face,” Mr. Byrne said.

Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Fleet, Indian Navy, said complex operations were performed during this edition of the exercise and they were beneficial to all the three countries. We have conducted exercises in all dimensions of warfare — from anti-submarine to anti-surface air operations.

The U.S. Charge D’Affaires, Marykay L. Carlson said Malabar 2017 was a message for the whole world about cooperation, and not specifically aimed at any one country.

Over the past few days, the three Navies have undertaken a series of operations, including cross-deck flying operations that require a high level of interoperability, communication and coordination. India’s MiG 29K fighter jets and the US’ F-18 fighter aircraft undertook composite formation flying to enhance interoperability.

INS Jyoti, undertook replenishment operations at sea with the USS Shoup, and Sazanami of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force, passing hoses to the U.S. and Japanese Navies for transfer of oil.

Preparations for the next edition of the tri-nation naval exercise will begin soon, Mr. Dasgupta said.

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