Australia is set to join India, US, Japan for the first time to take part in Malabar Exercise 2020

The Malabar naval exercise is expected to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea later this year. Australia is set to participate in the Malabar Exercise along with navies of India, US and Japan amid the India-China standoff.

Until now, only US, Japan and India were part of the naval exercise which is scheduled to be held in November.

Snub To China

It has taken the Indian government some time to finalise on Australia’s participation. There had been some concerns about how China may react to the move.

However, the participation of Australia in the exercise is expected to irk China.

This comes after India, US, Australia, and Japan held a meeting in Tokyo earlier this month for the second ministerial-level Quad meeting.

It also comes at a time when each country is wary about Chinese expansionism, whether it's Beijing's activities in the South China Sea, a trade war with the US, or direct territorial conflict along India's borders. Canberra, which had said it wanted the Quad to remain restricted to issues of trade and culture in 2007, released an updated defence strategy this July, breaking with diplomatic niceties of the past.

Exercise another step in deepening relations with India, says Australia

In a statement, Australia's Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds said Malabar Exercise 2020 marked a milestone opportunity for the Australian Defence Force.

“High-end military exercises like Malabar Exercise 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,” Minister Reynolds said.

“Malabar Exercise 2020 also showcases the deep trust between four major Indo-Pacific democracies and their shared will to work together on common security interests.”

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, 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.”

Australia last participated in Malabar Exercise in 2007.

Earlier this year India carried out separate exercises with navies of US, Australia and Japan.

Last month Australian and Indian Navy carried out passage exercise in the East Indian Ocean Region from September 23 to September 24. The exercise involved the participation of HMAS Hobart from the Australian side and Indian naval ships Sahyadri and Karmuk. In addition, an Indian maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters from both sides carried out a coordinated exercise.

Malabar Exercise

Earlier, the annual Malabar Exercise has been conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea in 2018 and off the coast of Japan in 2019. This year it is expected to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

“As India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and in the light of increased defence cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy,” Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Monday.

This year, the exercise has been planned on a ‘non-contact - at sea’ format.

The exercise will strengthen the coordination between the Navies of the participating countries.

The participants of Exercise Malabar 2020 will engage 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 defence ministry said.