Japan's anti-submarine crews with their Indian counterparts in front of Japanese Navy P-3 aircraft in Goa
Less than two months after India and Japan decided to fundamentally alter the level of bilateral ties, two Japanese P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft have landed in Goa for a series of joint exercises with the Indian Navy.
The Indian Navy says the exercises, scheduled to take place over the Arabian Sea between today and Tuesday, will "take bilateral relations to an unprecedented level of strategic and global partnership".
Two Indian Navy Boeing P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance anti-submarine warfare jets are also participating in the exercises with crews from each country training together on each other's aircraft to evolve concepts for future joint operations.
Japanese Navy P-3C anti-submarine warfare aircraft, also in use with the Pakistan Navy.
For India, these exercises are particularly significant since it allows the Navy to "assess the performance of the P-3 aircraft which has been used by the Pakistan Navy for decades as its primary anti-submarine platform". The Pakistani Navy received its first P-3Cs from the United States in 1996. Since then, these aircraft have been significantly upgraded by the US company Lockheed Martin with better sensors and weapons to make them a formidable challenge for Indian Navy warships and submarines operating in the Arabian Sea.
In early September this year, during his last foreign visit as Defence Minister, Arun Jaitley had visited Japan where both countries finalised plans to step up their bilateral military exchanges. While it is unclear at this stage whether the Indian Navy will subsequently deploy its P-8 anti-submarine jets in Japan for similar exercises, both countries share concerns on the growth and expansion of the Chinese Navy.
Japan has brought two P-3C anti-submarine warfare aircraft for the drills in Goa.
While India is concerned about the increasing presence of Chinese nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean, China lays claim to the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands currently controlled by Japan in the East China Sea. Over the last few years, the navies of India, Japan and the United States have come together to form what is increasingly being seen as a Naval alliance with a clear focus on the global deployment of the Chinese Navy, which now has a logistics base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. All three nations have challenged China's claims to South China Sea, with each side stressing the importance of freedom of navigation in the disputed region. Earlier this year, India, Japan and the United States jointly participated in the Malabar Exercises in the Bay of Bengal, the most complex Naval war games India has ever been involved in. India is also considering the purchase of up to 18 Japanese US-2 amphibious aircraft in a deal which could be worth approximately $1.6 billion.