International Relations

The Japanese-Indian Combat Exercise and Chinese Concerns

Japan and India have launched “Veer Guardian 2023,” their second Joint Air Defense Exercise, to conduct multi-domain air combat operations in a complex environment and deepen mutual operational understanding while fostering closer defence cooperation. This increased military cooperation between Japan and India in the Indo-Pacific under US guidance is causing a mild panic among Chinese commentators.

Everything you need to know about Veer Guardian 2023.

  • Exercise in pairs: Veer Guardian is a joint air exercise conducted by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF).
  • The fourth edition: The fourth edition of the Veer Guardian series took place in January 2023 at Hyakuri Air Base near Tokyo, Japan.
  • The IAF sent six Sukhoi Su-30MKI multirole fighters and two C-17 Globemaster transport planes, while the JASDF sent six Mitsubishi F-2 fighters.
  • The exercise’s primary goals are to improve interoperability between the two air forces, exchange best practises and operational experiences, and improve understanding of each other’s tactics and procedures.
  • Drills: Various aerial manoeuvres, air combat scenarios, air-to-ground strikes, and close air support operations were part of the exercise. The Indian side also took part in a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) exercise in which the C-17 plane dropped relief supplies into a simulated disaster-hit area.

Collaboration between Japan and India against China

  • Japan’s Pursuit of Allies: To counterbalance China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific region, Japan has been actively seeking allies. It has formed alliances with a number of countries, including the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, and India.
  • Security Cooperation between Japan and India: Since 2020, Japan and India have had a reciprocal access agreement in place. They have conducted joint military exercises in the naval, ground, and air domains on a regular basis.
  • Chances for India to gain experience: After a three-year border standoff with China, India sees the joint air exercises with Japan as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain experience over the East China Sea. As a result, the joint drill with Japan could pave the way for future quadrilateral air exercises.

Why is China concerned about Japan and India’s growing collaboration?

  • The National Security Strategy of Japan: The NSS sees China as the greatest challenge Japan has ever faced and recommends a counter-strike capability by 2027.
  • Japan’s approach to countering China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region: As evidenced by Japan’s recently published National Security Strategy, the Chinese government believes Japan is exaggerating the China Threat Theory (NSS).
  • Limiting Strategic Manoeuvrability: A stronger India poses a major threat to China’s west, while Japan remains a major threat to China’s east. Because India and Japan are both significant players in the Asia-Pacific region, their cooperation may limit China’s strategic manoeuvrability.
  • Power balance: Together, India and Japan have the potential to bring about a paradigm shift in the region’s security. One way Japan is attempting to balance its power with China is through increased collaboration with India.
  • Concern for national security: Furthermore, China sees Japan’s recent efforts to court allies and introduce NATO forces in the Asia-Pacific region as potentially leading to a resurgence of Japan’s militarist past, which concerns China.

@the end

To summarise, the Japan-India joint air drill will provide both air forces with valuable combat experience. It will also advance Japan’s strategy of integrating India more deeply into the East Asian security architecture. However, for China, the air drill is a foreshadowing of things to come.

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