Malabar Exercise: Australia to join India, US, Japan; ‘Quad’ to conduct naval war game in the Indian Ocean

By: |
October 19, 2020 7:40 PM

Expected to help further strengthening the coordination between the navies of India, Japan, US and Australia, this year’s edition of Ex Malabar has been planned on a ‘non-contact - at sea’ format.

The series of Malabar started back in 1992 as bilateral India-US Navy exercise, and was later joined by Japan in 2015. (File image)

In a clear signal to China and with India seeking to increase cooperation with countries in the maritime domain, for the first time, Ex Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy next month.

“China’s behaviour in recent months while the world grapples with the COVID pandemic has led to a surprising global backlash against that country. Its border standoff with India in the Himalayas across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), its belligerence in the South China Sea (SCS), its actions in Hong Kong and Tibet, its threatening posture on Taiwan, etc. has led to a hardening of positions and to concerns about its intentions,” opines Indian Navy veteran Commodore Anil Jai Singh.

“This has led to greater engagement in the Quad and the decision to include Australia must be an outcome of the recent Quad Foreign Ministers meeting in Tokyo,” Commodore Singh says.

More about Malabar

Expected to help further strengthening the coordination between the navies of India, Japan, US and Australia, this year’s edition of Ex Malabar has been planned on a ‘non-contact – at sea’ format.

The participant nations are committed to rules-based international order are already engaged in further enhancing the security in the maritime domain and they together support free, inclusive and open Indo-Pacific.

The series of Malabar started back in 1992 as bilateral India-US Navy exercise, and was later joined by Japan in 2015.

According to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), this annual drill in 2018 has been conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea in 2018. In 2019, it was off the coast in Japan and this year it will be in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Experts’ Views on the inclusion of Australia in Malabar

Commodore Anil Jai Singh, who is also Vice President Indian Maritime Foundation, says, “Australia’s inclusion for the forthcoming Malabar naval exercise should not come as a surprise. In previous years, there was a concern that the participation of all four members of the Quad in Ex Malabar would be construed by China as part of a containment strategy. India, in fact, had always distanced itself from any suggestion that the Quad is meant to counter-balance China and repeatedly emphasised that it is an inclusive construct for maintaining a rules-based international order and a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. Australia’s exclusion in the past was meant to convey this message and not due to any bilateral issue between India and Australia. Soon after Ex Malabar in 2018 in which India, Japan and the US participated with their aircraft carriers, the Indian Navy exercised with the Royal Australian Navy in the Bay of Bengal which included the participation of submarines.”

“Australia’s inclusion is, therefore, a welcome decision and should send the signal it is meant to. In fact, as more countries including France, Germany and the UK develop their Indo-Pacific strategies and commit naval forces to the region the scope of Malabar could be enhanced into a multinational exercise in the Indian Ocean region committed to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific with a focus on the ‘Indo’,” Commodore Singh suggests.

Sharing his view, former spokesperson of the Indian Navy Capt DK Sharma says, “Invitation to Australia to participate in Annual Multi-lateral Ex Malabar besides US and Japan could not have come at a more appropriate time. We are just a month away from the annual congregation of the world’s best Navies who exercise in the Western Pacific and IOR alternately.”

“The joining of Australia in Ex Malabar completes a long-standing request of Australia and would further take the cause of promoting peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” the Indian Navy veteran opines.

According to Capt Sharma, “It would also be an indirect hint to the expansionist power in the region who does not believe in the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific Region. Coming together of the four major Navies in the region is a welcome step in the right direction and it should deter the CCP Navy in what they are promoting and exercising in the South China Sea (SCS).”

“It would also help in addressing the common concerns regarding the strategic security and environmental challenges in the Indo Pacific maritime domain,” Capt Sharma concludes.

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