India may invite Oz for naval drill
Australia’s inclusion will lead to the exercise having more complexity and scope, though it could also rile China, especially at a time when Beijing’s differences with all four members of the Quad are in sharp focus.Updated: Jul 11, 2020 03:42 IST
India is close to taking a call on including Australia in the Malabar trilateral naval exercise involving Japan and the US, people familiar with developments said on Friday.
The move would dovetail with last year’s upgrade of the Quadrilateral alliance or Quad – which groups India, Australia, Japan and the US – to the level of foreign ministers and greater convergence between the four countries on the Indo-Pacific, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
It will also be a natural progression to India and Australia elevating their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signing a crucial agreement for reciprocal access to military logistics during a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Scott Morrison last month.
The annual Malabar exercise began as a bilateral drill between India and the US in 1992, and was expanded with Japan’s inclusion in 2015.
This year’s manoeuvres have been delayed by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and are expected to take place by the end of 2020, the people said.
A decision on Australia’s inclusion will also include consultations with Japan and the US for their concurrence, the people added.
Australia’s inclusion will lead to the exercise having more complexity and scope, though it could also rile China, especially at a time when Beijing’s differences with all four members of the Quad are in sharp focus.
US leaders have said China’s aggressive stance along the border with China fits with a larger pattern of Chinese aggression in other parts of the world, while Japan is engaged in a row with China over Chinese vessels intruding into its territorial waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands.
Japan has also backed India in the standoff with China, saying it opposes any “unilateral attempt to change the status quo” on the LAC.
Prime Minister Morrison referred to the India-China standoff when he recently launched Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update.
During a virtual meeting between Morrison and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Thursday, the two leaders welcomed the inaugural Quad foreign ministerial meeting in September 2019 and reaffirmed their commitment to ongoing quadrilateral consultations.
Morrison and Abe also “committed to continue to work together through various bilateral and plurilateral mechanisms, including the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue with the US and trilateral meetings with India”, according to a joint statement.