Context: The first phase of the Malabar Naval exercise including Australia along with Japan and the U.S., is scheduled to be held soon off the Visakhapatnam coast.

More on the news:

  • It is being conducted as a ‘non-contact, at sea only’ exercise in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Phase 1:  November 3 to 6
    • Phase-1 of Malabar will see the participation of U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain, Australian long-range frigate HMAS Ballarat with integral MH-60 helicopter, and Japanese destroyer JS Onami with integral SH-60 helicopter.
    • The Indian side will see the participation of destroyer INS Ranvijay, stealth frigate INS Shivalik, off-shore patrol vessel INS Sukanya, fleet support ship INS Shakti and submarine INS Sindhuraj.
  • The second phase is scheduled to be held from November 17 to 20.


  • Shift from earlier stance:
    • 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.
  • Indo-Pacific
    • It is based on their shared values and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order.
    • The exercise will showcase the “high-levels of synergy and coordination between the friendly navies.

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.