Two warships—a Shivalik class and a Kamorta class—will represent the Navy

Aircraft carriers and warships participate in Malabar naval exercise, a joint exercise of Quad countries. Malabar, the Indian sea coast on its southwest is living up to its famed name.

Once known to be of particular geo-strategic interest to major western powers and their expeditionary navies that fought many a pitched battle for control of the sea route and the nearby coast that promised a control of India and further the lands east, the upcoming biennial Exercise Malabar is going to be held at an interesting time.

With a source in the Indian military establishment confirming slating of the impending event from November 8-18 off Japanese waters, it will have huge implications for India’s delicate balancing of the strategic relationship with old friend Russia on one hand and a growing military association with the US.

“Two Indian warships—a Shivalik class and a Kamorta class—besides a Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft P8I will represent the Indian Navy in the exercise in Japan. Just before that the two warships will also participate in an International Fleet Review in Japan,” the source said

The other participants in Exercise Malabar will be from the United States Navy (USN), the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), and the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF)—members of the ‘Quad’ or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

‘Quad’ is commonly seen to be a grouping with an anti-China bias with a commitment to ensure “a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

While Russia has till now stopped short of calling its foray into Ukraine as an all-out war—it still maintains the effort is a special operation—there are good chances that a Russian war declaration may happen given the way the protracted conflict is panning out.

There are good reasons too. Russia has already made gas and oil a scarce commodity in Europe and elsewhere by constricting supplies even as surging levels of inflation are already taking a toll. It is mainly Russian gas that is used to heat homes across Europe during the harsh winters.

With the winter cold scything across, Russia—known for being most familiar with winter wars and using the elements of nature to its military advantage—may go in for the kill. The very recent reverses inflicted by the doughty Ukrainians on the Russians including taking over the important city of Lyman may only serve to make the Russians more desperate to use the winter to their advantage.

For India, it may yet again present a scenario it could have done without. To be seen taking part in a major military exercise with the US, the main force behind the burgeoning Ukrainian resistance to the Russians, and yet to step back from a scathing criticism of the Russian action in Ukraine, may be a difficult situation to explain.

Undoubtedly, Indian diplomatic skills will be tested to the hilt.