At a time when China is engaged in a border face-off with India, Australia is all set to join the navies of India, the US and Japan in the Malabar exercises. The Malabar exercises will take place in November in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
The defence ministry on Monday issued a statement in this regard. The statement provides: “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 has been planned on a ‘non-contact – at sea’ format. “The exercise will strengthen the coordination between the navies of the participating countries,” the defence ministry added.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Australia’s defence minister Linda Reynolds said Malabar exercises marked a milestone opportunity for the Australian Defence Force.
“High-end military exercises like Malabar Exercise are key to enhancing Australia’s maritime capabilities, building interoperability with our close partners, and demonstrating our collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Reynolds said.
“Malabar Exercise 2020 also showcases the deep trust between four major Indo-Pacific democracies and their shared will to work together on common security interests,” Reynolds added.
China has been suspicious about the purpose of the Malabar exercise as it feels it is an effort to contain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Initially, it was between India and the US. Japan joined in 2015 and now Australia is the latest entrant.
US deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun had recently said he viewed the grouping of US, India, Japan and Australia as a “NATO-like” bloc to prevent any potential challenge from China. He had cited Australia’s possible participation in the Malabar exercise as an example of progress towards a formal defence bloc.
The Malabar series of naval exercises started in 1992 as a bilateral Indian Navy-US Navy exercise. This annual exercise has been conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea in 2018, off the coast of Japan in 2019, and is going to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea in November this year. Australia last participated in Malabar exercises in 2007.
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