Malabar
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Dr. Zafar Jaspal |

The steady transformation in the global politics has been causing new strategic alliances or partnerships formation. The materialization of new partnerships is advantageous for many regional actors and alarming for the smaller states, particularly in Asia. The Great Powers strategic competition would not only make Pakistan’s strategic environment vulnerable but also drags it into their strategic theater.

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An emerging alliance between the US and India

Hence, the United States and its like-minded states’ perceptions about India—a natural partner—are not ignorable in the prevalent regional and global politics. The United States and Japan constituted strategic partnership with India. Indeed, this strategic partnership is to check China’s increasing clout in the global affairs, particularly in Asia-Pacific. China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea is a nuisance for the United States and its South East Asian allies. Moreover, its increasing naval presence throughout the Indian Ocean irritates India that regarded the Indian Ocean as part of its immediate sphere of influence.

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New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific strategy

Washington and Tokyo encourage New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific strategy. They are confident about India’s potential to balance or check China. India’s is equally determined to materialize Indo-US strategic partnership for the pursuit of its regional and global agenda. This facilitates India in purchasing modern military equipment and transfer of technology from the United States. Moreover, Washington supports unconditionally New Delhi at the international forums against Pakistan. It also endorses India’s Great Power ambitions in South Asia, Indian Ocean and beyond.

Recently, the United States and Japan reiterated India as a natural partner. On July 10, 2017, the United States, Japan, and India launched a tri-nation Malabar exercise in the Bay of Bengal.

The complexity in the Indian Ocean strategic environment has gradually been multiplying since the announcement of New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific strategy. The United States affirmed India’s attempt to build blue water Navy and broaden its maritime sphere. The increasing Indian Naval capability is attractive for the Americans, Japanese, Singaporeans, Australians, etc. They are determined to facilitate India’s endeavor to emerge as Great Power to balance China’s increasing strategic significance in Asia.

Recently, the United States and Japan reiterated India as a natural partner. On July 10, 2017, the United States, Japan, and India launched a tri-nation Malabar exercise in the Bay of Bengal. In the Exercise, the US Navy’s largest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier—USS Nimitz, the Indian Navy’s solitary aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and Japan Izumo-class helicopter carrier participated. They deployed front-line warships, submarines, and aircraft as part of the maritime exercise.

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The US Navy spokesperson stated: “As members of Indo-Asia-Pacific nations, our maritime forces are natural partners, and we look forward to continuing to strengthen our bonds and personal relationships.” Certainly, United States, Japan, and India maritime forces cooperation is advantageous for their national interests, but disturbing for the other Indo-Pacific littoral states.

Malabar 2017 is aimed at achieving deeper military ties between the three nations. A noteworthy feature of the exercise is the inclusion (first time) of aircraft carriers from all three navies. It was ‘conducted ashore and at-sea.

Malabar naval exercise was conceived in 1992 and formally started as a bilateral exercise between India and United States in 1994. Japan joined it as a permanent partner in 2015. Australia and Singapore had also taken part in previous editions of the exercise. The continuity and broadening of the horizon of Malabar naval exercise reassure India about the US and its like-minded states commitment in working with it to reshape the Asian security environment in general and contain China in particular.

Malabar 2017 is aimed at achieving deeper military ties between the three nations. A noteworthy feature of the exercise is the inclusion (first time) of aircraft carriers from all three navies. It was ‘conducted ashore and at-sea. The ashore training included “exchanges on carrier strike group operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare, explosive ordnance disposal and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations. And at-sea portions covered “professional exchanges and embarks, submarine familiarization, air defense exercises, surface warfare drills, anti-submarine warfare, gunnery exercises and VBSS operations.” It was reported (CNN, July 11, 2017) that the current Malabar exercise is ‘the largest naval exercise the region has seen in more than two decades’. It involves 16 ships, two submarines, and more than 95 aircraft.

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Indian designs to contain China

Importantly, India has already embarked on its mission to contain China to demonstrate that it is a natural partner of the United States. The former rejected latter’s One Belt, One Road initiative. New Delhi invited Dalai Lama to disputed Arunachal Pradesh/south Tibet. It also blocked Chinese road construction on Chinese territory along the Bhutan-China border. India had attempted to bully Pakistan, especially after failing to tame the current uprising in Kashmir. It has also been struggling to obstruct China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

Today, India is fighting more than 17 ‘active’ insurgencies in 119 districts. Moreover, Premier Modi’s Hindu extremist policies have alienated millions of Muslims and ‘lower’ caste Hindus in the entire India.

India’s natural partners seem satisfied with India’s Indo-Pacific maritime strategy and its impression to check China. Ironically, they fail to comprehend New Delhi’s actual capability. India has completely failed to disrupt the smooth build-up up of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It’s neighboring states, including Bangladesh, has been enhancing their economic engagement with China. India’s internal situation is also frightening.

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Today, India is fighting more than 17 ‘active’ insurgencies in 119 districts. Moreover, Premier Modi’s Hindu extremist policies have alienated millions of Muslims and ‘lower’ caste Hindus in the entire India. To conclude, Malabar 2017 reinvigorates Indo-US-Japan tri-lateral strategic partnership. Concurrently, it alarms China and encourages India to interfere in its neighbors’ internal affairs. India’s bullish attitude, certainly, is extremely detrimental to Asia-Pacific strategic stability.

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: jaspal_99@hotmail.com. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been reprinted with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Director & Associate Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan, where he teaches various aspects of Strategic Studies; International Security; Nuclear/Missile Proliferation; Terrorism including CBNR Terrorism and Countermeasures; Arms Control/Disarmament; Domestic and Foreign Policies of the country. He is an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, Islamabad/London and a Course Coordinator at Foreign Services Academy Ministry of Foreign Affairs Islamabad. Prior to joining the University, he had been a Research Fellow at ISSI, IPRI, Islamabad, Pakistan. Dr. Zafar, as a Guest Speaker/Visiting Lecturer, had delivered and still continues to deliver lectures at NATO School, Oberammergau, Germany; Center of Excellence: Defence against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey; National Security & War Courses of Pakistan’s National Defence University; Intelligence Bureau Academy, Command and Staff College Quetta; Air War College, Karachi, and Foreign Service Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan. He holds Ph.D. and M. Phil in International Relations and M.A. in Political Science. He did advance Post Graduate Certificate courses in Peace and Conflict Studies, from European Peace University Stadtschlaining, Austria; Peace Research, International Relations and Foreign Policy Analysis from Oslo University, Norway. He also did CMC Training Course/ Cooperative Monitoring from Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States.

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