In a message to China amid the ongoing border standoff in eastern Ladakh, India on Monday announced that Australia will join the Malabar Exercise, along with the United States (US) and Japan. The naval exercise, which is held every year, will take place in November this year in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
In a statement, India said that the exercise, which has been planned on a ‘non-contact – at sea’ format, would seek to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and will aim to strengthen the coordination between the navies of the participating countries.
“The participating countries collectively support free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and remain committed to a rules-based international order,” the government said in a statement.
The exercise is seen as a message to China amid the ongoing border standoff between New Delhi and Beijing in eastern Ladakh. However, China believes that Malabar exercise “is an effort to contain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region”.
“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 was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
“Exercise MALABAR also showcases the deep trust between four major Indo-Pacific democracies and their shared will to work together on common security interests,” Reynolds added.
The Malabar Exercise was first held between India and the US in 1992. In 2015, Japan became a permanent member of the exercise. Later, Australia also showed interest in the annual naval exercise. This annual exercise has been conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippines Sea in 2018, off the coast of Japan in 2019.