India and Japan have resumed the bilateral maritime exercise JIMEX-18 in Indian waters after a hiatus of five years. The eight-day-long JIMEX-18 will include anti-submarine warfare exercises, VBSS (visit, board, search and seizure) drills, gun firings, cross deck Helo operations and coordinated operations in anti-submarine/ anti-air threat scenarios. The last JIMEX exercises was conducted in Dec 2013 near the Indian city of Chennai.
"The conduct of JIMEX-18 after five years is indicative of an upswing in Indo-Japanese defense relations and the continued efforts of both the governments to work closely to enhance the safety and security of the global commons in keeping with ‘rule-based order'," a statement issued by the Indian Navy reads.
"I will not consider the bilateral exercise at a gap of five years because the navies of the two countries used to engage bilaterally whenever the Malabar exercise was held in Japanese waters. But, yes, this is an indication that Japan is trying to grow its outreach in the Indian Ocean; fundamentally, because it is in urgent need to secure its sea line of communication," Cmde. Abhay K Singh (Retd), Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, told Sputnik.
In August this year, India and Japan had reaffirmed that they have shared interests in expanding cooperation in the maritime security domain and welcomed the fact that the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the Indian Navy were working towards the signing of the Implementing Arrangement for Deeper Cooperation.
"With the aim of deepening bilateral cooperation in this domain, the (cabinet) ministers also reaffirmed their intention to pursue cooperation in engaging with the countries of the Indo-Pacific, including through their capacity building," the joint statement issued after the India-Japan annual defense ministers' dialogue read.
Security analysts believe that India and Japan will jointly prop up the maritime capacity of Vietnam to counter China in the South China Sea, where Hanoi is engaged in a territorial dispute with Beijing. On Monday, Japan and Vietnam agreed on cooperation to secure peace in the South China Sea, saying they were "determined to realize the free and open Indo-Pacific region", which covers the South China Sea.
However, going by the present policy of the Indian government, it is very unlikely that the Indian Navy will engage in joint patrolling or any kind of collaboration with the JMSDF in the South China Sea.
"I don't think there will be any kind of joint collaboration with Japan in the South China Sea in the near future, which is indicated by the Indian government policy in the recent past as well," Cmde. Abhay K Singh (Retd) concluded.