Eye on China: Australia to join Malabar naval exercise next month

New Delhi (NVI): Australia today said that it will be participating in the Malabar Exercise next month that will see the participation of other Quad countries — India, Japan and the US — to counter the growing assertiveness of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

The growing cooperation among Quad nations and the naval exercise next month is also significant amid the India-China border stand-off in Eastern Ladakh for over five months now.

Accepting the invitation for the mega drills by India, Australian Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, said that ‘Exercise MALABAR 2020’ marked a milestone opportunity for the Australian Defence Force.

Australia’s participation in the annual exercise, which is likely to take place next month in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, will definitely add muscle to Quad for an increased cooperation between in the maritime security domain.

“High-end military exercises like MALABAR 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 was quoted as saying in a statement by the Australian Ministry of Defence.

“Exercise MALABAR also showcases the deep trust between four major Indo-Pacific democracies and their shared will to work together on common security interests,” she added.

Commenting on the crucial development, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the announcement was another important step in Australia’s deepening relationship with India.

“This builds on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, to which Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Modi agreed on 4 June 2020, and which I progressed with my counterpart, Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar, this month when we met in Tokyo.

“It will bolster the ability of India, Australia, Japan and the United States to work together to uphold peace and stability across our region,” Marise Payne said in an official statement.

“Participation in Exercise MALABAR demonstrates Australia’s enduring commitment to enhancing regional security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and increasing the capability and interoperability of the ADF,” the Australian Defence Ministry said.

Australia last participated in Exercise MALABAR in 2007.

It is pertinent to mention here the foreign ministers of India, the US, Australia and Japan held talks at a recent Quad meeting in Tokyo recently and vowed to intensify cooperation to ensure an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had also slammed Beijing’s coercive actions, including against India on the Ladakh border, during the meet.