Australia has been invited to join Exercise Malabar alongside the US, Japan and India, marking the first time since 2007 that all four members of the Quadrilateral Initiative have conducted joint military training.
The invitation is almost sure to prompt a response from China.
Until now, India has reportedly refused Australian requests to return to Ex Malabar, possibly to avoid angering its northern neighbour. This year’s invitation suggests that Indian PM Narendra Modi has revised his country’s strategy after Chinese troops reportedly killed 20 Indian soldiers in the Himalayas in June.
“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 for Defence Linda 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.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs 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,” Minister Payne said.
The news came around the time that Minister Reynolds held high-level talks in Tokyo with Japanese Minister for Defence Kishi Nobuo. During the meeting, the ministers instructed officials to begin drafting a framework that would allow the Japanese Self-Defence Force to protect Australian military assets under Japanese law.