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Malabar 2017: India, Japan, US expand format for naval drill

17 December 2016

India, Japan and the US are to engage themselves in ''bigger'' and ''more complex'' naval exercises when the three countries come together in the Indian Ocean for the 21st edition of the Malabar exercise - Malabar 2017 - next year.

The three navies will focus on "anti-submarine warfare" and deploy "different machines" during the next round of the Malabar exercise, amidst increasing presence of Chinese underwater vessels in the strategic Indian Ocean region.

"We want to (use) different machines especially now that India flies the P8I (Poseidon). We fly the P8A," Commander of the US Seventh Fleet, Vice Admiral Joseph P Aucoin said.

"I would like those two aircraft working together and to hunt submarines. So anti-submarine warfare is one area which I think would be very beneficial. So I am looking forward to that in Malabar," he told reporters in New Delhi.

The exercise assumes significance at a time when China has become more assertive, and their submarines forays in the Indian Ocean region have increased.

Vice Admiral Aucoin met Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba and other senior officers to chalk out the dates and strategy of the exercise, likely to be held after the monsoon.

The US commander, who spoke on a number of issues, said he was looking forward to the implementation of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) between India and the US.

He said the implementation of LEMOA may take some more time, but hoped that within a couple of years, it would be clear what possibilities are there.

The US has shared its "points of contact" - the details of designated officials to whom the US military would have to send its request for logistics support under LEMOA - but India is yet to share the list.

The US commander also spoke out against militarisation of the strategic South China Sea region, through which an annual trade of $5 billion flows. He termed the situation in the region "dynamic" and asked countries to desist from aggressive land reclamation.

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