The Japanese and Indian coast guards on Thursday conducted a joint drill in waters off Chennai, southern India.

The 18th such exercise between the two nations comes at a time when China is expanding its maritime presence in waters near India.

Sharing the concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” to ensure the freedom of navigation and the administration of law, Japan and India intend to display their close relationship through the drill to keep China in check.

The exercise involves Japan’s Echigo patrol vessel and five Indian ships, including the Shaurya patrol boat, as well as helicopters belonging to both countries.

Members of the coast guards trained on how to deal with fires as well as an attempted occupation of a ship by pirates.

Commandant Takahiro Okushima of the Japan Coast Guard and Director General Krishnaswamy Natarajan of the Indian Coast Guard will inspect the joint exercise. The two chiefs held a meeting Tuesday in New Delhi.

The drill was designed to improve the two nations’ capability to deal with pirates and carry out law enforcement operations, such as on-site inspections of vessels, an official at the Japan Coast Guard said.

The Echigo left a port in Niigata Prefecture on Dec. 26 last year and carried out an anti-piracy patrol operation on the high seas along the way.

The ship will visit Malaysia before returning to Niigata in February.

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