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Politics

In a signal to China, India joins US-Japan naval exercises

Beijing's ramped-up Indian Ocean activity has New Delhi on 'full alert'

MUMBAI India is stepping up its guard against China on the high seas as well. In the Indian Ocean, on the sea route in China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, a joint exercise was recently conducted by Japan, the U.S. and India.

The Indian navy sent an aircraft carrier to the event for the first time, and the exercise was carried out in mid-July with the American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense warship Izumo, a helicopter carrier.

The joint exercises have been conducted intermittently since 2007, and the three countries all say they are not targeted at any specific country. However, they apparently hope to send a message to China. In particular, "India has been on full alert for China's move," according to a person involved in the joint exercise, as the Indian navy has spotted a dozen Chinese warships and other vessels as well as submarines in the Indian Ocean in past two months.

China has been increasingly active around the Indian Ocean in recent years. A Chinese submarine entered the port of Colombo in Sri Lanka in 2014. In the east, port construction led by China is under way in Myanmar and Bangladesh. In the west, the port of Gwadar in southern Pakistan was built with Chinese support, and Chinese warships and other vessels have called there. The Chinese navy has set up a base in Djibouti in Africa as well.

At the U.S.-India summit in June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized the importance of strengthening and expanding cooperation in defense and security. In a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Modi agreed to strengthen cooperation in naval security.

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