New Delhi, Oct 20: Amid the ongoing border stand-off with China in eastern Ladakh, the Ministry of Defence announced that Australia would join the Malabar 2020 naval exercise, consisting of India, Japan and the US, to be held next month.
"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," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
The Defence Ministry added that this year, the exercise has been planned on a "non-contact - at sea" format. The exercise will strengthen the coordination between the Navies of the participating countries. It said that these countries 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," it said.
Meanwhile, Linda Reynolds, Minister for Defence, Australia said, "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." Maris Payne, Foreign Minister of Australia, 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," said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
Australia last participated in Exercise MALABAR in 2007 whereas The Malabar series of Naval exercises started in 1992 as a bilateral Indian Navy-US Navy exercise. Japan joined the Naval exercise in 2015. This annual exercise has been conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea in 2018, off the coast Japan in 2019 and is expected to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea later this year.