- India, Japan and the U.S. are set to elevate the bilateral ‘Cope India’ air exercise to a trilateral format.
- The U.S. had proposed a trilateral air exercise between India, Japan and the U.S.
- For this, the Cope India exercise will be elevated to a trilateral level in phases, two official sources independently confirmed on condition of anonymity.
- To begin with, it will be a small-level exercise involving transport aircraft in the trilateral format. It will be scaled up in subsequent editions.
- The three countries already conduct naval war games under the expanded Malabar naval exercise.
Level of interoperability:
- Cope India was first conducted in 2004 and has grown in scope with the involvement of fighter aircraft and force multipliers such as Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS).
- However it has been held only intermittently.
- The level of interoperability in the exercises is expected to go up with India recently signing the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) with the U.S.
Similar to Malabar Exercise
- This elevation of the air exercise is similar to the Malabar naval exercise.
- Malabar began in 1992 as a bilateral naval exercise between India and the U.S. and has over time grown in scope and complexity.
- In 2015, it was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan.
- With increased focus on the Indo-Pacific, the U.S. has been keen on increased engagement in a trilateral format.