Marking a significant shift in policy, India has invited Australia to participate in the annual Malabar series of naval exercises, marking the first time that the Quad group which includes the US and Japan, will conduct extensive wargames in the Indian Ocean region.
The move is expected to further lay the foundations for the eventual formalisation of the QUAD grouping.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said, “Following an invitation from India, Australia will participate in Exercise Malabar 2020. The exercise will bring together four key regional defence partners: India, the United States, Japan and Australia in November 2020.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “We noticed this development. China believes that military cooperation between countries should be conducive to regional peace and stability.”
Welcoming the decision on Twitter, the US Navy’s Chief of Information tweeted “Seapower x 4” with the flags of India, the US, Japan and Australia. The US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, part of the US Indo-Pacific Command, tweeted, “Looking forward to exercise #Malabar in November.”
The Defence Ministry of India had said: “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. 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…are engaging 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.”