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SOURCE: Hindustan Times

India and Japan will kick off three-day maritime drills in the northern Arabia Sea from Saturday, an Indian Navy spokesperson said on Friday, days after India conducted an exercise with Australia in the Indian Ocean.

The India-Japan maritime bilateral exercise (JIMEX) is conducted biennially. Its last edition was conducted off the coast of Visakhapatnam in October 2018.

“JIMEX-20 will showcase a high degree of inter-operability and joint operational skills through conduct of a multitude of advanced exercises, across the spectrum of maritime operations. Multi-faceted tactical exercises involving weapon firing, cross-deck helicopter operations and complex surface, anti-submarine and air warfare drills will consolidate the coordination developed by the two navies,” the navy said in a statement.

The drills come after Indian and Australian navies conducted a passage exercise in the eastern Indian Ocean Region (IOR) from September 23-24. A passage exercise is normally undertaken whenever an opportunity arises, in contrast to pre-planned maritime drills.

Just like the Indo-Australian drills, JIMEX-20 is being conducted in a “non-contact at-sea-only format”, in view of Covid-19 restrictions.

Indian warships Chennai, Teg, Tarkash and fleet tanker Deepak will represent the Indian Navy at JIMEX-20, while Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force is sending its warships Kaga and Ikazuchi for the drills, the statement said, adding that P8-I long range maritime patrol aircraft, integral helicopters and fighter jets will also take part in the exercise.

“JIMEX-20 will further enhance the cooperation and mutual confidence between the two navies and fortify the long-standing bond of friendship between the two countries,” it added.

The stage is also set for Australia to be part of the next Malabar naval exercise conducted by India with the US and Japan. The next edition of Malabar, already delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, is set to be held by the end of the year.

China has also been wary of the Quadrilateral security dialogue or Quad that was revived in late 2017 by India, the US, Australia and Japan, and these suspicions have increased since the four countries upgraded the forum to the ministerial level last year.

The navy has been on an operational alert in the Indian Ocean where scores of warships are ready for any task in the aftermath of the border row with China in the Ladakh sector. India has positioned warships along critical sea lanes of communications and choke points under its mission-based deployment and the vessels could be diverted for any mission.

Indian warships are deployed from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Strait and northern Bay of Bengal to the southeast coast of Africa.