India is giving serious consideration in inviting Australia to take part in its trilateral Malabar naval exercise with the US and Japan this year, reports The Times Of India.
If this happens, the “Quad countries” will engage in serious naval combat manoeuvres and exercise on the high seas after a gap of 13 years.
The Malabar naval exercise will be held in the Bay of Bengal after the monsoon ends in July-August and sources told ToI that there is “a move by India to include Australia” in the 24th Malabar exercise, but “the final decision is yet be taken.”
Australian diplomatic sources, on being contacted by ToI, said, “We have a very strong bilateral defence relationship with India. We would be glad to consider all opportunities to engage with the Indian military”.
Incidentally Australian warship, Anzac-class frigate HMAS Toowoomba, is anchored in Mumbai on a four-day visit.
The Malabar exercise is to build a free, open, and stable Indo-Pacific, and keep an eye on an aggressive and expansionist China which has strongly objected the inclusion of Australia for a long time.
China’s relationship with Australia is also at ebb after Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) started investigating claims that a Chinese espionage ring attempted to recruit an agent to run as a candidate in the last parliamentary election in a bid to place a spy in the country’s parliament.
China also objected to the India-US Malabar exercise in the Bay of Bengal in 2007 when it expanded to include Japan, Australia, and Singapore. It felt a multilateral naval construct was emerging to “counter and contain”.
When Malabar exercises were held in India only the US participated but when they were held in north-western Pacific, in 2009 and 2014, Japan was also a part of it.
But after Narendra Modi government took office, Japan has become a regular participant from 2015 onwards.
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