When US and Indian naval forces conducted joint Indian Ocean naval exercises in late July, the drills undoubtedly aimed to send a pointed message to China.  

The USS Nimitz strike carrier and Indian warships staged the drills around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands near the Malacca Strait, a strategic passage the US Navy could conceivably block in any sea conflict with China.

Washington and Delhi’s drills will set the stage for the larger Malabar exercise, a multilateral naval maneuver set for later this year that will include the US, India, Japan and likely Australia in a coalescing coaltion of supposedly like-minded powers known as the “Quad.”

But these maneuvers and drills are not happening in a strategic vacuum as China makes its own countermoves against what Beijing sees as a gathering hostile alliance that seeks to block its rightful rise as a regional and global leader.