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Naval-gazing off the Malabar coast
Days after Manmohan Singh's maiden visit to the United States as prime minister, frontline warships and submarines of the Indian and US navies have plunged into a weeklong joint exercise in the Arabian Sea.

The exercise involving the two navies – codenamed Malabar Exercise 04 – began off the Konkan coast on October 4. This is the largest ever anti-submarine and anti-terrorism exercise conducted jointly by the two countries.

What is the Malabar Exercise?

The Malabar series of bilateral Indo-US military exercises began in 1992, but lapsed after the US imposed military and economic sanctions on India in the wake of the Pokhran nuclear tests of May 1998. In 2002 India and the US revived the series pledging larger interaction.

Why is it called the Malabar Exercise?

It is codenamed the Malabar Exercise because it is held off India's southwestern Malabar coast.

How many Malabar Exercises have been conducted so far?

Five. The latest off the Konkan coast is the sixth one. The five earlier Indo-US naval exercises were held in 1992, 1995, 1996, 2002, and 2004.

What is the purpose of these exercises?

Basically, it is to cement Indo-US military bonding. The joint military exercise is a function of the fast-growing Indo-US military and diplomatic ties. The US had declared India a "natural partner" in its global war on terrorism in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

What are the salient features of the latest edition of the Malabar Exercise?

The accent of this exercise is anti-submarine warfare. The Indian Navy, which is trying to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, is getting a good opportunity to test its capabilities as its warships exercise with American submarines. The frontline Indian anti-submarine warfare ships will match their skills with US nuclear submarines and missile cruisers. India and the US are in an advanced stage of negotiations on the Indian Navy acquiring ten long-range maritime aircraft.

What do the navies do other than the anti-submarine warfare?

The two navies are also undertaking manoeuvres on sea-control missions, fleet air defence, surface firings and maritime interdiction operations. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Indian and US ships alternatively patrol the piracy-troubled Malacca Straits. The Malabar Exercise helps them in these joint operations.

Which American naval fleet is taking part in the exercise?

The US Pacific Fleet's Los Angeles class nuclear submarine USS Alexandria as well as Ticonderoga missile cruiser and Oliver Hazard Perry class guided missile frigate are the main attractions. The USS Alexandria is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles. For the first time, the US Navy has also brought in long-range maritime and submarine hunter aircraft P3C Orions to the exercise.

What has the Indian Navy deployed for the exercise?

The Indian Navy has fielded one Delhi class guided missile destroyer, one Brahmaputra class guided missile frigate, one German HDW Shishukar class submarine, and Sea Harrier jumpjet fighters.

How many personnel are engaged in the exercise?

Nearly 1,000 cadets and officers from India and the US are involved in the exercise.

Posted by Jehangir Unwalla @ 3:57 PM


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