The Chinese Foreign Ministry has urged India and Japan to do more to enhance mutual trust in the regional security sphere and act in the interest of peace and stability in the region.
The urging came after the Indian Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force started their first joint aerial exercise, Veer Guardian 2023, on Jan 12 at Hyakuri Air Base, Japan. The 15-day drill is a poisoned fruit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which the United States has formed with the two countries plus Australia with the aim of containing China, something it makes no bones about.
Given New Delhi's reluctance to throw its weight behind the US on the Ukraine crisis, Washington should be happy to see that Tokyo is helping to pull New Delhi closer to its side through the bilateral drill.
India's attitude toward the US' invitation to join its fight club has always been lukewarm. Being a member of the Quad, as well as a member of BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, it pays special attention to raising its own profile through balanced diplomacy.
By agreeing to take part in the drills, New Delhi is continuing to stick to its balanced diplomacy, but as observers say, it is also part of its efforts to explore the possibility of diversifying its weapon sources.
India can gain first-hand experience through the drill with Japan about how the US warplanes perform. The air force of Japan depends heavily on the US for weapons, intelligence and supplies.
On the other hand, Japan will not waste the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the capabilities of the Russian stealth jets of the Indian Air Force, such as the Russian SU-30 MKI, that are taking part in the exercise.
Although the drill was settled months ago during the Quad meeting in Tokyo last year, its timing is apparently well calculated to serve the Fumio Kishida government's agenda as it came at the same time as Kishida's visits to the US and other Western allies, in which security cooperation was a focus.
Japan is trying hard to prove to the US its use value as both a spear and a shield. In exchange, it looks forward to the US granting it more space to normalize its status at an early date, preparing for the re-rise of militarism upon which hinges its smoldering empire ambitions.
That means despite its small size, the US-orchestrated bilateral air force drill provides both sides a grinder on which to sharpen their own axes, but the US should know that will not necessarily serve its interests in the long run.