Aircraft carriers and warships participate in the second phase of Malabar naval exercise, a joint exercise comprising of India, US, Japan and Australia, in the Northern Arabian Sea on November 17, 2020. (AP file)
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Canada joins Quad joint naval exercise in Pacific Ocean

The fortnight-long anti-submarine warfare exercise Sea Dragon 2021 is being organised by the United States as its Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
By Anirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Vinod Janardhanan
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 08:10 PM IST

For the first time, Canada is participating in a joint exercise in the Pacific Ocean with the nations that comprise the Quad: the US, India, Japan and Australia.

The fortnight-long anti-submarine warfare exercise Sea Dragon 2021 is being organised by the United States as its Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, an American territory. The participants are the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Indian Navy, and Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force.

In response to queries from the Hindustan Times, David Lavallee, public affairs officer with Canadian Armed Forces’ 1 Canadian Air Division and Canadian NORAD Region Headquarters, said, “Canada is also a Pacific nation. The RCAF often works closely with the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, and our participation in Sea Dragon is an opportunity to demonstrate the strength and durability of our alliances in the Indo-Pacific region.”

He also said the RCAF’s participation “enables substantial training opportunities for the Long Range Patrol community working with allies and partners in the Pacific, including Australia, India, Japan and the United States.”

New Delhi is looking at this development as a “significant step forward” by Canada. Diplomatic sources said the RCAF’s participation appeared to be a “political nod to the Quad, Quad Plus without saying it is joining the Quad.”

The name of the exercise itself and the participants indicate rising concern over China. The RCAF spokesperson said that “developing interoperability with our partners” and working with different aircraft “ensure that the RCAF remains ready to support Canada’s interests in the region.”

Lavallee also said, “Given the increasing importance of the Asia-Pacific region to Canadian security and prosperity, Canada is committed to being a reliable partner in the region, through consistent engagement and building strong relationships. Canadian security and defence preparedness benefits tremendously from connectivity with our closest allies.”

While proposed bilateral exercises with India have not come to fruition as yet, this is the first time in several years that Canada has joined an exercise with India as a participant, even if in the Quad context.

“This training is critical to ensuring the RCAF’s Aurora (aircraft) crews remain ready and able to conduct patrol missions at home and interoperable with other like-minded nations, including those in the Asia-Pacific theatre,” he added. The exercises is being organised by the US Navy’s 7th Fleet and will conclude on Thursday.

Interestingly, the Canadian Armed Forces had cancelled joint winter training exercises scheduled with China’s People’s Liberation Army in 2019, though this move had drawn criticism from the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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