As the ongoing military confrontation between India and China in eastern Ladakh prolongs, the Australian Navy will participate in trilateral Malabar naval exercise this year.
The development holds a huge significance as this is the first time that the Australian Navy would be participating in the naval exercise along with the United States and Japan. Moreover, it would also be the first when the four countries of the regional grouping-Quad- would engage at the military level.
The exercise is scheduled to be held in the Bay of Bengal next month. Notably, the foreign ministers of Quad countries had met in Tokyo earlier this month. As the tension between China and Quad countries is all-time high, the timing of Australia becoming the part of the Malabar exercise is also important.
'Decision in light of increased defence cooperation with Australia'
In an official statement, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, As India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and in the light of increased defence cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy.
The exercise will strengthen the coordination between the Navies of the participating countries." With China increasing its assertiveness in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the MoD statement reiterated that "They collectively support free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and remain committed to a rule-based international order."
Chinese reservation against Malabar Exercise
A report published in the Times of India highlighted that in 2007, when the invitation was extended to include Japan, Australia and Singapore in Malabar exercise, China strongly firmly believing that a multilateral naval construct was emerging to "counter and contain" it in the area. For several years, the Chinese reservation led India to limit Malabar to a bilateral one with the US. Japan was included only after the exercise was carried out in 2009 and 2014 in the north-west Pacific. The Island nation became a regular participant from 2015 onwards.
The Malabar Exercise
Malabar is an annual military exercise between the navies of India, Japan and the US held alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans to improve interoperability between the navies. The exercise started in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the US.
What is Quad?
Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or simply Quad is the informal strategic forum of 4 countries having high stakes in the Indian Ocean region. It includes the United States, Japan, Australia and India that is maintained by semi-regular summits, information exchanges and military drills between member countries.
The idea was initiated for the first time in 2007 by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, Indian PM Manmohan Singh and US vice-president Dick Cheney. The grouping is widely seen as an attempt to counter China's aggression in IOR.