Gas Week

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Warships from US, India, Japan, Australia and Singapore start war games off east coast of India; ‘Malabar series’

Posted by gasweek on 21 September, 2007

Warships from the United States, India, Japan, Australia and Singapore are exercising together in early September off the east coast of India, reported Michael Richardson, a security specialist at the Institute of South-East Asian Studies in Singapore in The Canberra Times (6/9/2007, p.19). Aus, Japan and Singapore join Malabar group: The manoeuvres, which began on Tuesday, are an extension of long-running bilateral naval exercises between India and the US, known as the Malabar series. They have been expanded for the first time to include Australia, Japan and Singapore. While the US will contribute 13 warships and India seven, Australia will be represented by a frigate and a tanker, Japan by two destroyers, and Singapore by a frigate.

Operations within Chinese favourite waterways: It is also the first time that the drill will be held off India’s eastern seaboard. The operational zone for the training stretches from the Indian mainland to India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands guarding the western approaches to the Malacca and Singapore straits, one of the world’s busiest waterways and a vital artery for many Asian nations. Some 60 per cent of China’s foreign trade and 75 per cent of its oil imports pass through these straits.

China: please explain: When senior officials of the US, Japan, India and Australia arranged an inaugural meeting on the sidelines of a meeting in Manila in May of the ASEAN Regional Forum on security to discuss how to take the four power relationship forward, China pointedly sent diplomatic notes to each of them requesting an explanation.

Rival bloc to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation? Since then, China has indicated that if the quad is formed, it will be divisive, destabilising and risk plunging Asia into another Cold War. Partly for this reason, Australia and India are wary of giving the group a strategic shape. Yet the quad — if it were to emerge in the future as a security partnership — could well develop as a counterpart to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. However, the quad alongside the Shanghai organisation would look suspiciously like an Asian version of NATO confronting a Warsaw Pact-style bloc in the region, with non-members coming under pressure to take sides. Or would it? It is too early to tell. China and Russia may want to draw India, a founding member of the non-aligned movement, into the Shanghai organisation as a full member. It is already an observer.

Reference: Michael Richardson, a former Asia editor of the International Herald Tribune, is a security specialist at the Institute of South-East Asian Studies in Singapore.

The Canberra Times, 6/9/2007, p. 19

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