The 31st edition of the Malabar multilateral exercise comprising India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. will be held off Sydney from August 11-21, as Australia hosts the war games for the first time this year, informs ‘The Hindu’. Australia has also invited India for the Sea Power conference that it is hosting from November 7-9 and defence sources said India is likely to attend it.
The exercise will take place in a large designated area, the East Australian exercise area, spread over a couple of hundred miles off Sydney.
Exercise Malabar will be followed by AUSINDEX, the India-Australia bilateral naval exercise. In the past, officials have termed Malabar as the most complicated naval exercise that India does.
Australia has also just hosted multilateral Exercise Talisman Sabre, which involved more than 33,000 troops from 13 countries.
Japanese and Indian navy vessels stopped in Pacific Island countries Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea on the way to Sydney, highlighting the strategic importance of the region at a time of friction between China and the United States.
Vice Admiral Karl Thomas, Commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said at a press conference on Thursday in Sydney the exercise was “not pointed toward any one country” and would improve the ability of the four forces to work with each other. “The deterrence that our four nations provide as we operate together as a QUAD is a foundation for all the other nations operating in this region,” Thomas said.
Australian Navy is deploying two ships, destroyer HMAS Brisbane and landing ship HMAS Choules while Indian Navy has deployed destroyer INS Kolkata and frigate INS Sahyadri for the exercise.
The U.S. will be represented by a destroyer and the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) by a surface vessel.
In addition, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft of India, Australia and the U.S. will take part in the exercise with focus on anti-submarine warfare (ASW).
During a visit to India in March this year, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had announced that they would be hosting the multilateral exercise for the first time this year, when he took a tour of India’s indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in Mumbai. He had also stated that for Australia, India is a top-tier security partner.
He is the first foreign leader to go onboard the indigenous aircraft carrier that was commissioned in September 2022. “My visit [to India] reflects my government’s commitment to place India at the heart of Australia’s approach to the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” he had said addressing the Navy personnel onboard.
Malabar has grown in size, scope and complexity with ASW training emerging as a major focus area in the last few years, especially in the backdrop of rapid expansion of Chinese Navy and its increased forays into the Indian Ocean.
India’s growing line-up of military platforms from the U.S. has increased commonality of platforms, in addition to New Delhi concluding all foundational agreements with the U.S.
Officials have repeatedly asserted that Malabar and the QUAD are different and the latter was not a military grouping. However, Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) has emerged as a key focus area for the QUAD with the four countries announcing an Indo-Pacific MDA to assist countries in the region, notes ‘The Hindu’.