As tensions between India and China are dangerously escalating, New Delhi has reportedly decided to invite Australia to join the Malabar-2020, the annual trilateral exercises involving the navies of India, Japan, and the United States.
The move was predictable due to the rising tensions in the Sino-Indian relations, as troops from both countries continue to be engaged in a long-drawn standoff.
The Malabar-2020 is expected to be held later this year near the Malacca Straits off the coast of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Australia, however, has not been a permanent member of the Malabar exercises – but has attended it once as an invitee 13 years ago during the Malabar-2007.
According to the reports, this move would be a logical next step between India and Australia after the virtual summit between the two countries, where they signed the crucial Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) for reciprocal access to bases, medical and training facilities, spares, and fuel.
In 2018, there were speculations that India could invite Australia for the Malabar exercise and thus completing the QUAD, but New Delhi refused to invite Canberra and avoided making it look like a military alliance against China.
The Indian Navy also conducted a joint exercise with Russian in the same waters earlier this week, which experts labeled as a countermeasure to please Moscow after New Delhi refused to join the Kavkaz-2020 military drills where China and Pakistan were participating.
While China’s ties with India are severely deteriorating, Beijing’s ties with other countries are equally bad. The US navy remains poised to hamper PLAN’s ambitions to expand in the Pacific by maintaining a strong presence in the area. With vigorous US assistance, China has now been surrounded by three F-35 armed countries, additionally arming its arch-enemy, Taiwan, with the advanced F-16V fighter jets.
China’s southern neighbor – the Philippines has also threatened Beijing of invoking a defense treaty that allows the U.S. to assist it militarily in case of aggression against its territory or its naval assets.
The Indian Navy also deployed additional warships in the South China Sea and Straits of Malacca to counter aggressively to any Chinese action against Indian assets, after the deadly Galwan valley clashes on June 15 in Ladakh. The clashes left 20 Indian and an unspecified number of Chinese troops dead.