Australia has confirmed its participation in the Malabar Exercise, which involves the navies of India, US and Japan, a development expected to generate significant disquiet in Beijing.
India had formally invited Australia in the exercise, expected to commence next month, which until now only featured the US, Japan and India.
“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,” said the statement from the Indian government.
Responding to the Indian invitation to join the high-powered exercise, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, said the country was going ahead with the exercise.
“High-end military exercises like Malabar are key to enhancing Australia’s maritime capabilities, building interoperability with our close partners, demonstrating our collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said in a statement.
“It will bolster the ability of India, Australia, Japan and the United States to work together to uphold peace and stability across our region,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne – who had joined her Indian, Japanese and US counterparts for the second meeting of the “Quad” Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Tokyo on 6 October, said.
The development is expected to further strengthen the Quad grouping, and take the aspirations of the group beyond just trade and commercial interests. The Exercise Malabar is a high-end naval exercise involving complex maritime operations in the surface, sub-surface and air domains.
The participating navies focus on maritime interdiction operations (MIO), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-air and anti-surface firings. The exercise is an exceptional platform for the ‘Quad’ countries to enhance their interoperability, visit board search and seizure (VBSS) manoeuvres and tactical scenario-based exercise at sea.
The step is also a frightening realisation of the Chinese aggressive expansionism in the Indo-Pacific and its neighbourhood and sets the stage for the formation of a formidable ‘anti-China’ front. The Quad countries have long been viewed by China as an ‘Indo-Pacific NATO’ whose aim is to act against the interests of the country.
The Quad has been cooperating with growing seriousness, especially after China started pushing its expansionist agendas across the IOR countries more aggressively. The Quad countries view its dominance as a threat to regional security and, therefore, the ambitions of the grouping have grown beyond trade and economy to include strategic cooperation.
Exercise Malabar will be the first time the Quad nations will come together and test the interoperability of their navies, extending the ambitions of the group beyond trade and maritime security concerns. The step is surely going to irk China in the light of this year’s developments in the region. As the Quad evolves, questions still remain as to how far the partnership will go.