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.


Malabar Exercise

  • 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.
Image Source: TH