India, Japan air force drills have been deferred. The Japanese Ministry of defence announced the postponement of the scheduled fighter jet training exercise of Indian and Japanese air force due to COVID-19
The India-Jpan exercise, scheduled to be held in Japan, was going to be the first-ever joint fighter jet exercise between the two nations.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) and Japanese Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) carried out a joint military exercise ‘Shinyuu Maitri’ in 2019. After the successful completion of the military drill, Tokyo and New Delhi agreed on the 2020 fighter jet drill at the 2+2 Foreign & Defence Minister Dialogue.
Japan, United States, Australia and India are part of an informal quadrilateral security dialogue (QUAD). QUAD was established to counter the rise of Chinese influence in the Indian and Pacific Ocean.
All four countries regularly conduct joint exercises and drills as part of the initiative to ensure freedom of navigation and the rule of law is followed.
Despite COVID-19, China has been increasing its activities in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean region. In fact, Beijing is using the distraction caused by the pandemic to test the response of India in a region which New Delhi considers in its sphere of influence.
As reported by the EurAsian Times earlier, China has been using coronavirus as a mask to further its regional interests in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
Taiwan has been at the receiving end of Chinese naval and air aggression since the outbreak of the virus and has been keeping tabs on Chinese activity.
Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member also claim to be bullied in the South China Sea (SCS) as Beijing has been busy in administering islands, naming reefs and rock formations. Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei all lay claims to the South China Sea.
The Chinese have been active in the Indian Ocean too, regularly sending research and survey ships and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) to map different parts of the water body.
The Chinese Navy has also deployed its 35th Task Force to patrol the seas from pirates. President Xi Jing Ping considers the country’s expansion into the Indian Ocean the ‘Maritime Silk Road’, an initiative to revive ancient Chinese trade routes.
Although the world’s biggest democracy has been in lockdown since March 26 due coronavirus, the Indian Navy (IN) has made it very clear that it is action-ready and prepared to take on those challenging India’s security.
In a statement issued on April 14, The Navy said that it’s Eastern Naval Command’s Dornier squadron continues maritime surveillance missions and that its naval assets remain “mission-ready and prepared for immediate deployment should the need arise.”
India’s recent decision to repatriate citizens from Indian Ocean countries under operation ‘Samudra Setu’ is not just a rescue mission. It is also an opportunity for New Delhi to flex its maritime muscle and offer medical aid to allies. The rescue ships are being escorted Indian Navy vessels, thus showcasing its prowess in the process.
Under Samudra Setu, India is lending a helping hand to Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles and Mauritius by offering medical aid, supplies and health professionals to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.
Indian Ocean nations are geopolitically vital for India to maintain its sphere of influence in the region. Currently, New Delhi is not leaving any stone unturned to help the island nations and ensure China does not get any window of opportunity to make inroads.
While ASEAN members and Taiwan may be dependent on the US for growing Chinese incursions, India has taken an independent and more proactive stance for its neighbour. Regardless of the delay in the joint military exercise with Japan, New Delhi is confident of its capabilities to defend itself as well as its geopolitical interests and allies.