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As Malabar moves ahead in Bay of Bengal, a look at navy’s other global drills

The Malabar naval exercise by India, the US and Japan in the Bay of Bengal is seen as an attempt to counterbalance Chinese moves to expand its footprint in the Indian Ocean amid mounting border tensions between New Delhi and Beijing.

But the engagement is one of the five naval exercises by India and the US, and among more than a dozen joint drills the Indian Navy carries out with international navies every year.

Navy sources said the growing scale and complexity of Malabar and deployment of Chinese ships to monitor the drills propel the exercise into headlines, but India’s similar engagements with littoral countries is no less significant.

The significance of some of these drills in the Indian Ocean region will grow in the coming years as China expands its maritime reach. It has picked Djibouti to set up its first overseas military base and ships carrying Chinese troops set sail on Tuesday.

Amid the 21st edition of the Malabar exercise, here’s a look at some of the other joint drills the Indian Navy conducts every year.


IBSAMAR

It represents the trilateral naval cooperation between India, Brazil and South Africa. The navy says IBSAMAR, which began in 2008, has transformed into a complex exercise involving warships, aircraft and special forces from the three countries.


Indra

It is a joint naval exercise between India and Russia. Last held in the Bay of Bengal in December, the navy says the primary purpose of the exercise is to increase inter-operability between the two navies and develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations. The exercise has been on since 2003.


Varuna

This is an exercise between India and France — on since 1993 and christened Varuna in 2001. The drills involve aircraft carriers of both navies. The navy says the engagement has promoted greater understanding between the two nations and helped pick up best practices from each other.


Konkan

The annual exercise between India and Britain’s Royal Navy. The two navies began joint drills in 2004. Like all bilateral exercises, Konkan is hosted in rotation by both navies and “has grown in complexity, scale and intensity”, according to the navy.


Naseem Al Bahr

India and the Royal Omani Navy have been holding this exercise since 1993. The focus in recent editions has been on surface warfare, visit board search and seizure (VBSS), anti-air warfare and advanced helicopter operations.


SLINEX

This India and Sri Lanka joint drill began in 2005. The naval interaction is significant as Chinese warships frequent the island nation’s ports. Previous editions have covered anti-piracy drills, gun firing, cross-deck helicopter operations and anti-surface exercises.


AUSINDEX

India and Australia have been conducting this drill in the Bay of Bengal since 2015. The objective of the biennial exercise is to bolster maritime cooperation and sharpen the ability to undertake operations such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. “The focus is on capability enhancement and capacity building for all in the Indian Ocean region,” a navy officer said.


Other Indo-US exercises

Apart from Malabar, the Indian and US navies conduct a series of joint drills that cover explosive ordnance disposal (Ex Spitting Cobra), salvage operations (SALVEX) and Indian Navy-US Navy Special Forces exercise.

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