Context: Indian government will soon take a decision on whether to include Australia in the Malabar exercises with Japan and the U.S. at a Defence Ministry meeting.
More on the news:
- The decision, if taken, could bring all Quad countries together as part of the annual war games.
- The exercise has been delayed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, it is expected to take place towards the end of 2020.
- Once the government takes a final call on the inclusion of Australia, as per procedure, the other partner nations — Japan and the U.S. — have to be informed to secure their consent.
- After acquiring consent a formal invitation would be sent to Australia.
- Japan and the U.S. have also been keen on Australia’s inclusion for some time now and have been pushing India to consider it.
Reasons for change in India’s stance:
- India’s Indo-Pacific plan:
- After years of reluctance by India for inclusion of Australia, it was finally open to the inclusion of the country in the Malabar as an observer.
- The inclusion of Australia in the Malabar exercises would surely mark a major shift for India’s Indo-Pacific plans.
- 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.
- 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.
- Recently, Australian PM also announced Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update, which has been termed a “significant pivot”
- It is a A$270 billion 10-year defence plan which includes, for the first time, land, sea and air-based long-range and hypersonic strike missiles for Australia.
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.
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.
Image Source: TH
- It is an annual trilateral 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.