India Says Australia to Join Malabar Exercise, China ‘Takes Note’

Australia’s inclusion marks a step forward for the Quad grouping, which is viewed as a check against China. 

Updated
India
2 min read
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China on Tuesday, 20 October, said that it has “taken note” of India’s announcement that Australia will join the Malabar Exercise 2020, along with the US and Japan.

On Monday, India’s Defence Ministry announced that Australia is all set to be part of the upcoming Malabar naval exercise, expected to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea later in 2020.

“We always believe that military cooperation between countries should be conducive to regional peace and stability,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijiane told the media in Beijing, adding that the country has “taken note of this development”, according to PTI.

Announcing Australia’s inclusion, India’s Defence Ministry said: "As India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in maritime security domain and in the light of increased defence cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy.”

Australia's inclusion comes amid the heightened tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.

What’s the Malabar Exercise?

The Malabar exercise had begun as a bilateral exercise between India and the US in 1992. While Japan was taken as a permanent member in the exercise in 2015, Australia had been conspicuous by its absence, except in 2007, when it participated along with Singapore.

Significantly, the four countries of US, Australia, Japan and India represent the Quad grouping, which has been viewed as a check against rising Chinese assertiveness.

‘Support Free, Open and Inclusive Indo-Pacific’

This year, the Malabar exercise has been planned on a 'non-contact-at sea' format, the Defence Ministry said, adding that it will strengthen the coordination between the navies of the participating countries.

"The participants of Exercise Malabar 2020 are engaging to enhance safety and security in the maritime domain. They collectively support free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and remain committed to a rules-based international order," the ministry pointed out.

Meanwhile, Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said, "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."

"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.

Support From US Senator

Meanwhile, US Senator and Senate India Caucus Chair John Cornyn along with a bipartisan group of senators has sent a letter to Ambassador of India to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu expressing support for India’s decision to invite Australia to participate in the annual exercise.

“From an operational perspective, the addition of such a uniquely capable and stalwart partner, like Australia, to this naval exercise is invaluable, providing increased interoperability, strengthening threat assessment abilities and enhancing the maritime roles and missions of the four naval powers,” wrote the senators.

“However, of equal importance is the symbolic nature of Australia’s inclusion in Malabar, marking the first time that the United States, India, Japan and Australia will engage collectively at the military level since the formation of the Quad and the Quad-plus-Singapore naval exercises held in September 2007,” the letter further read.

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