Context: Amid the ongoing stand-off with China, the Ministry of Defence recently announced that Australia will join the Malabar 2020 naval exercise, to be held next month.

More on the news:

  • This year, the exercise had been planned on a ‘non-contact - at sea’ format.
  • Following an invitation from India, Australia would participate in the exercise. 
  • The exercise will bolster the ability of India, Australia, Japan, and the United States to work together to uphold peace and stability across our region.


  • Shift from earlier stance:
    • Earlier, India did not want Quad to be seen as an anti-China group.
    • After years of reluctance by India for inclusion of Australia, it was finally open to the inclusion of the country in the Malabar exercise. The inclusion of Australia in the Malabar exercises would surely mark a major shift for India’s Indo-Pacific plans. 
  • Repeated requests by Australia
    • Since April 2017 Australia has made repeated requests to join the exercises.
    • However, India did not include Australia in the exercises in 2018 and 2019, on the other hand, the bilateral AUSINDEX naval exercise expanded in scope and complexity.

Significance of including Australia in Malabar exercise

  • Signal to China:
    • The move of expansion of Malabar exercise comes in the midst of the ongoing stand-off with China on the border, the biggest crisis along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in over five decades. 
    • And Australia’s inclusion would be surely seen as a possible first step towards the militarization of the Quad coalition, which has been opposed by China in the past.
  • Expanding strategic cooperation with Australia
    • Recently, at the ‘virtual summit’ between Indian Prime Minister and Australian PM the two countries 
      • Signed the long-pending Mutual Logistics Support Agreement.
      • It also elevated their partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. 
      • A joint declaration on a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo- Pacific was also announced.

Malabar Exercise

  • It is an annual naval exercise between the navies of India, Japan, and the USA which is held alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
  • Malabar had begun as a bilateral naval exercise between India and the U.S. in 1992 and was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
  • Other bilateral exercises between India and Australia are Pitch Black and AUSINDEX.


Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD)

  • It is an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia and India.
  • It is also known as the Quad.
  • It has a shared objective of ensuring a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
  • The idea of grouping was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007.

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