New Delhi: The Indian Navy will host twenty warships from the navies of five countries, as part of a major naval exercise to be held in the waters of the Bay of Bengal in September this year. The announcement comes on the back of a visit by the Australian defence minister, Brendan Nelson, to the country a couple of days back, who announced that the Australian Navy would be participating in a exercise in these waters later on in the year.
The combined units will include three aircraft carriers as well as nuclear submarines and a contingent of the Indian Air Force's Jaguar maritime strike fighter aircraft.
The aircraft carriers will include the nuclear powered, USS Nimitz, that recently dropped anchor at Chennai, along with the US Navy's last conventionally fuelled carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk and the Indian Navy's own INS Viraat, which flies the Harrier VTOL aircraft.
The countries taking part in the naval war game are the US, Japan, Australia and Singapore, according to defence ministry officials. The exercise, codenamed Malabar-07, will feature missile destroyers, stealth frigates, nuclear and conventional submarines and tankers besides the carriers. The five-day manoeuvres will also see the Indian Air Force shore-based Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft, configured for a maritime role, in action along side the Indian Navy's Sea Harrier jets operating from the INS Viraat.
Increasing interaction between the Indian, US, Japanese and now Australian, navies has become a source of worry for China, which has openly expressed its apprehensions regarding the formation of an alliance in this region. For some time now, certain media circles have been trying to propagate an "Axis of democracy" in this part of the world, which loosely translates into an alliance of the US, Japan and India. It would be an interesting development if Australia too should get linked to any such speculative move.
During his visit to India, which came on the back of a visit to mainland China, Australia's defence minister, Brendan Nelson, had tried to allay Beijing's fears, saying there was no quadrilateral security alliance comprising Australia, the US, India and Japan in the offing.