"These exercises are all-encompassing, starting from one spectrum to the other including anti-piracy operations, board, search and seize and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," said Indian navy spokesman Captain D.K. Sharma.
The decision to expand the Malabar exercises that the U.S. and India conduct each year to include Japan comes days after a Pentagon official said it was considering sailing warships close to China's artificial islands in the South China Sea.
The Financial Times newspaper last week cited a senior U.S. official as saying U.S. ships would sail within 12-nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around islands it has built in the Spratly chain, within the next two weeks.
India has kept away from the tensions in the South China, but has stood with the U.S. in calling for freedom of navigation in the region.
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Tokyo has been involved in the drills off and on in recent years when these have held in the Pacific, but the three governments had now agreed to formalize it, Indian defense sources said.
The Indian navy is deploying a submarine to the Malabar exercises along with surface ships and maritime surveillance aircraft, but neither of its two aircraft carriers will take part.Japan has sent a lone destroyer.
Srikanth Kondapalli, who teaches Chinese Studies at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that Australia and some Southeast Asian countries were also interested in joining the Malabar drills.
"One of the primary concerns is the challenge to the free flow of goods and services on the high seas in recent times and strengthening the Indo-Pacific idea," he said.