Mega Indian Ocean Excercise Planned

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Details are being revealed of what may be the largest naval exercise ever planned for the Indian Ocean. Twenty warships from five countries, including three aircraft carriers, will assemble in the Bay of Bengal in September for the major naval exercise to be hosted by India. The other countries taking part in the exercise -- code named Malabar-07 -- are Australia, Japan, Singapore, and the United States.

The aircraft carriers will be the nuclear-propelled USS Nimitz and the USS Kitty Hawk, the U.S. Navys last conventionally propelled large carrier. The third carrier will be the INS Viraat, the former British VSTOL carrier Hermes, which was commissioned in the Indian Navy in 1989.

Several submarines, including at least one U.S. Navy nuclear-propelled attack submarine, will also participate. An Australian official stated, "This will be the biggest multilateral maritime exercise the Indian Navy will be involved in so far. The joint interaction will have all the three dimensions -- air elements, surface warships and submarines."

The five-day Malabar-07 exercise will see land-based Jaguar strike aircraft of the Indian Air Force participating.

A June 2007 exercise involving Indian, Japanese, and U.S. warships off the Japanese coast had evoked a strong reaction from the Chinese government. Chinese officials issued a statement to the three nations demanding to know the reason they were undertaking naval exercises so close to Chinese territory. Similar questions are expected from China concerning Malabar-07. India and China, the later a supporter of Pakistan, have long been political and, at times, military enemies.

Some Indian political parties have also expressed opposition to the September exercise, claiming that such action will pull India into alliances.

Such exercises tend to build close relationship among the participating navies. And, often regional nations not participating in them will seek to do so in the future.

-- Norman Polmar

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