Australia now ready to join Malabar naval exercises: Report

(Pic: ABC News)

New Delhi (NVI): After prolonged hesitation, Australia finally appears inclined to join India, the US and Japan actively to activate the ‘Quad’, which is intended mainly to ensure free movement in the Indo-Pacific region in the backdrop of China’s growing assertiveness.

Giving an indication in this regard, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that Australia “looks almost certain” to join annual Malabar naval exercises with India, the United States and Japan “as the four democracies tighten military cooperation to stare down a rising China”.

The media report, quoting an unnamed senior source of Australia, said there were “very positive signs” an invitation will soon be formally issued to the country.

“Since 2017, Australia, India, Japan and the US have intensified cooperation through the “Quad” security dialogue, but expanding Malabar to include all four nations would give the grouping a sharper military edge,” the report said.

It would also represent a substantial diplomatic and strategic victory for Australia, it said.

The proposal to form the Quad was mooted way back in 2007 but Australia, after committing itself, backed out in 2008, after apparently China talked tough against, what it saw, was an effort to encircle it.

India, the US and Japan have been maintaining that the grouping is not aimed against any country but only to ensure free and secure movement in the Indo-Pacific maritime zone, where piracy threats also exist.

Australia’s inclination to join the Malabar naval exercises, which are held annually but may be delayed this year due to coronavirus, comes against the backdrop of friction in its ties with China over the issue of the pandemic.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has recently held virtual meetings with  Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and discussed the regional situation.

India and Australia have elevated bilateral ties through a comprehensive strategic partnership and an agreement to allow reciprocal access to military bases.