The fourth edition of India – Japan Maritime bilateral exercise JIMEX is on from September 26-28. JIMEX series of exercises commenced on January 2012 with a special focus on maritime security cooperation, and the last edition of JIMEX was conducted in October 2018 off Visakhapatnam. But this year, due to the tensions with China, the need of maritime cooperation is being felt more by almost all the nations in the Indo-Pacific region. This context provides an opportunity to look at the India-Japan maritime cooperation in recent times.
JIMEX 20 will showcase high degree of inter-operability and joint operational skills through the conduct of a multitude of advanced exercises, across the spectrum of maritime operations. Multi-faceted tactical exercises involving weapon firings, cross deck helicopter operations and complex surface, anti-submarine and air warfare drills will consolidate coordination developed by the two navies.
JIMEX 20 will be spread over a period of three days and shall be conducted in a ‘non-contact at-sea-only format’, in view of COVID-19 restrictions.
Increasing Maritime Defence Engagements
The bilateral maritime exercise JIMEX-18 was held off Visakhapatnam in October 2018, after an interlude of 5 years. PASSEX are regularly conducted during the visit of Indian Naval ships and JMSDF (Japan Maritime Self-defence Force) ships to each other’s ports in India and Japan. PASSEX were held in September 2017 off Western India, October 2017 off Western Kyushu, Japan, November 2017 in the Sea of Japan, January 2018 off Mumbai and May 2018 off Visakhapatnam and September 2018 off the Gulf of Aden.
The first Air anti-submarine (ASW) exercise between Indian Navy P-8I and JMSDF P-3C was held off the coast of Goa in October 2017, during the return transit of the JMSDF aircraft deployed in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operations. This was followed by an Air ASW exercise between JMSDF P-1 and Indian Navy P-8I in May 2018 off the Goa coast. The Indian Army also participated as observers in Japan and U.S. Common Integration Emergency Drill (TREX-17) held in November 2017, and the Indian Navy took part in the mine and explosive ordnance exercise held in July 2018.
There also exist a large number of Subject Matter Expert Exchanges amongst all three services in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, peacekeeping, helicopter aircrew and meteorology. A joint exercise off the coast of Chennai was held in January 2018.
India and Japan – Key Nations Shaping Global Maritime Narrative
Japan is a part of the Quad or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which is seen as a containment strategy to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The US, Japan, Australia, and India form the Quad. Retired Chief of the Indian Navy Arun Prakash noted in his column “The Quadrilateral traces its origins to the great Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004. Within a week, the navies of the US, Australia Japan and India had come together to form “Joint Task Force-536”. It is noteworthy that not a single PLA Navy (PLAN) ship was seen throughout the 2004 tsunami relief operations.”
An IDSA research document notes that “As a maritime nation, India and Japan have a significant convergence of vision for ensuring ‘Good Order at Sea’ in the Indo-Pacific realm. The Tokyo declaration for the “India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership” signed in September 2014, signified the convergence of views on global interests, critical maritime inter-connection and the growing international responsibilities of two countries.”
Japan is at the forefront in replacing the phrase “Asia-Pacific” with “Indo-Pacific”. As this article notes, “In August 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled his regional vision called the “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy.” U.S. President Donald Trump echoed the phrase “free and open Indo-Pacific” during his first Asia tour in November and in his administration’s national security strategy released in December”.
Thus, JIMEX is one important element in the larger picture that is rapidly evolving in the maritime security cooperation between the two nations.
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