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India, Japan, US Plan Military Cooperation While China Watches Nervously


Three-way military cooperation among India, Japan and the United States is being eyed with concern by China, but the participants say the new grouping will not evolve into a formal alliance, and is not meant to "contain" China. VOA's Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

Indian and Japanese officials on Friday confirmed that the two nations will join the U.S. Navy in a first of its kind, large-scale maritime exercise next month.

The naval drill, scheduled for mid-April near the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka, Japan, has yet to be formally announced by any of the three governments.

But Japanese diplomats, Indian officials and American academics at a symposium in New Delhi Friday hailed the planned naval exercise as the start of a new era for Japan and India.

It coincides with increased concern about China's military build-up.

Ashley Tellis, a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the main purpose of the exercise is to enhance training in anti-piracy, detection of smuggling, and the coordination of disaster responses and rescue operations. Indian officials say the same.

Tellis tells VOA that Beijing should not misinterpret the exercise. The former U.S. National Security Council staff member contends it is not the start of a movement to "contain" China, nor the beginning of a formal three-way military alliance.

"I see this as essentially baby first steps, which are important, but ought not to be exaggerated, because we still have a long way to go before this becomes a serious military exercise," he said.

Nevertheless, Chinese diplomats and journalists attending the symposium confirm that the new military cooperation is causing concern in Beijing.

Maharaj Krishan Rasgotra, a veteran Indian diplomat and former foreign secretary, told the gathering, both Japan and India are taking larger political and military roles in Asia. Therefore, he says, military cooperation between the two democracies is a natural evolution.

"Both countries have a very clear, very powerful interest in the stability and security of the Indian Ocean," he noted.

Security in the Indian Ocean is of paramount strategic importance to both India and Japan, to ensure an unimpeded supply of oil from the Middle East.

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