The Australian government is keen to rejoin the Malabar naval exercise this year, but the request could be rejected by India due to concerns over China’s reaction on the move, a media report said on Friday.
ABC said that Australian defence minister Marise Payne in Tokyo has acknowledged the country’s desire to join the defence event where military assets from the US, India, and more recently Japan, hold joint annual naval drills, north of Australia.
“Australia is very interested in a quadrilateral engagement with India, Japan and the United States,” Payne said, adding, “What form that may take is a matter of discussion between our various countries.”
The report, however, added that there was growing speculation that India will reject Australia’s request to take part in this year’s exercises over concerns that it could inflame diplomatic tensions with China.
The Australian Defence Department said, “India has not indicated whether the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will be invited to the Exercise Malabar in 2017.”
In a statement to ABC, the Defence Department said Australia has regularly discussed the matter of the ADF’s involvement in Exercise Malabar with India since 2015.
The report said that in the past few weeks, the country’s defence attaché to New Delhi has requested that India allow the ADF to attend this year’s exercises as an official “observer”.
In 2007, Australia took part in the Malabar exercise, but withdrew from the drills and accompanying security talks following concerns expressed by Beijing.