In a strategic signaling to China, the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has officially announced that his country for the first time will host Exercise Malabar. The exercise is set to be in Perth in August, though the modalities are still being worked out. And, for the first time India is all set to participate in Australia’s Talisman Sabre exercise.
The two announcements were made ahead of the bilateral talks in New Delhi on Friday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi where Indo-Pacific, forthcoming QUAD Leaders Summit, Russia-Ukraine war and other issues will be discussed.
The Australian leader who is visiting India at the invitation of Prime Minister Modi made these remarks on board the indigenous, newly commissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikrant and stated that his visit reflects his government’s commitment to place at the heart of Australia’s approach to the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
The 25th edition of Ex-Malabar (2021) has already been hosted by the US Navy in Western Pacific, in 2022 the 26th edition was hosted by Japan and now Australia is the third QUAD member country to host the exercise.
What is the aim of Ex Malabar?
The focus of this is on interoperability among the QUAD navies and to also send a message to China that India is not alone in the region. According to experts it is ‘Strategic Signaling’ of collectivism. And for the first time in 2020 Australia had participated in this naval drill which is to showcase collective capabilities of the navies of QUAD member countries in the maritime domain where China is seen to expand its presence. This drill can also be a counterweight to the political and military influence of China in the region.
Malabar series of maritime exercises started in 1992 but only in bilateral format between the Indian and the US navies, several years later in 2015 Japan joined as permanent member and in 2020 the Royal Australian Navy participated in the drill.
The 27th edition of the drill comes at a time when India is holding the G20 presidency and the QUAD Leaders are scheduled to meet in Australia in May-June. The members of the QUAD share similar values of open, free and fair Indo-Pacific.
Over three decades the exercise has become more complex, has grown in scope and size and in the last few years Anti-Submarine Warfare training has emerged as a major focus area. This comes at a time when the Chinese Navy has been expanding its presence rapidly in the Indian Ocean.
On board the aircraft carrier the visiting leader talked about the strong defence relationship between the two countries and also thanked Prime Minister Modi for inviting him to visit INS Vikrant and driving forward the defence and security partnership between the two countries.
He also stated that for Australia, India is a top security partner and the Indian Ocean is central to the security and prosperity of both countries.
Both India and Australia are committed to upholding rules-based international order and to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is open, prosperous and inclusive as both countries for their trade and economic well being depend on free and open access to sea lanes in the Indo-Pacific.
Both countries last year had conducted more exercises, dialogues and operations than ever before, the Australian leader said. For the first time the two navies undertook Maritime Patrol Aircraft deployments to each other’s territories.
It has been reported earlier that last November the two sides conducted very complex exercises in Indo-Pacific: Ex-Endeavour and Ex-Austrahind. And these were capped off by Ex-Malabar – where the focus was on interoperability with the navies of India, Japan and the US.
The inaugural Australia-India General Rawat Defence Officer Exchange Program is already underway in India – a pioneering exchange programme which has been created by PM Modi and this according to PM Albanese will ensure that the military personnel of both sides will develop familiarity.