Australia will participate in Exercise MALABAR 2020 following an invitation from India, Australian Minister Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said in a joint statement Monday.
The exercise will bring together four key regional defence partners India, the United States, Japan and Australia in November 2020.
“Participation in Exercise MALABAR demonstrates Australia’s enduring commitment to enhancing regional security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and increasing the capability and interoperability of the ADF [Australian Defence Force]”, said the statement .
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Marise Payne said the announcement was another important step in Australia’s deepening relationship with India.
“This builds on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, to which Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Modi agreed on 4 June 2020, and which I progressed with my counterpart, Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar, this month when we met in Tokyo. It will bolster the ability of India, Australia, Japan and the United States to work together to uphold peace and stability across our region.”
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said Exercise MALABAR 2020 marked a milestone opportunity for the Australian Defence Force.
“High-end military exercises like MALABAR are key to enhancing Australia’s maritime capabilities, building interoperability with our close partners, and demonstrating our collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Minister Reynolds said.
“Exercise MALABAR also showcases the deep trust between four major Indo-Pacific democracies and their shared will to work together on common security interests.”
Exercise Malabar is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners. Originally begun in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the United States, Japan became a permanent partner in 2015. Past non-permanent participants of the exercise are Australia and Singapore. Australia last participated in Exercise MALABAR in 2007.
The exercise has been conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea in 2018, off the coast the Japan in 2019 and is expected to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea later this year. This year, the exercise has been planned on a ‘non-contact – at sea’ format.
Until now, India has been refusing Australia’s participation in the exercise to avoid posturing it as a military group against China. The new development came amid the border tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region.
“As India Seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and in the light of increased defence cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy”, said an Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) statement.
“The exercise will strengthen the coordination between the Navies of the participating countries. The participants of Exercise Malabar 2020 are engaging to enhance safety and security in the maritime domain. They collectively support free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and remain committed to a rules based international order”, the statement added.