NAVAL INTERESTS: BILATERAL INDIA_JAPAN NAVAL EXERCISE MAY BE CALLED OFF. JAPAN MAY PARTICIPATE IN INDO/U.S. "MALABAR EXERCISE" INSTEAD
Japan has been invited to join the Indo-US naval exercise 'Malabar' this year. For reasons of economy, similar activity between the Indian and Japanese Navies scheduled for later this year is likely to be cancelled. Joint exercises between Japan and India have made sense for a number of years but previous Japanese administrations had interpreted the Japanese constitution as severely limiting such exercises , though in fact they were never specifically mentioned. Japan last participated in these exercises in 2007. Japan is now interested in joint and cooperative defense, though still sees constitutional hurdles for much of the activities involved and in entering into such arrangements by formal treaty. Despite the tentative nature of all such cooperative endeavors by Japan, the Rising Sun is finding more willingness to cooperate defensively even extending to the Philippines once horrifically militarily occupied by Imperial Japan in WWII. Fear of an aggressive Chinese navy has been fueling the interest along with on going watery territorial disputes with China in the region which have been the occasion of some ruthless Chinese muscle flexing.
The decision to hold a trilateral exercise came s after the three countries held their first-ever high-level trilateral dialogue last month. This discussion was attended by foreign secretary S Jaishankar, Japanese vice foreign minister Akitaka Saiki, and Australian secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese.
While the participants discussed a range of issues, including freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,and maritime security; it was trilateral maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean topped the agenda. Japanese officials have said that India, Japan and Australia are on the "same page" over increasing assertiveness of China in the disputed South and East China Seas. The growing cooperation between regional navies and the Japanese Maritime Self defense Force will be interesting to watch, but real cooperative regional defense will require some adjustments to the Japanese constitution, the Japanese people are very cautious on that issue.