Four-day manoeuvre off Guam will be the second time the US, Indian, Australian and Japanese navies stage joint drills under Malabar exercise. This comes amid rising tensions between China and the US on multiple fronts, from Taiwan and Southeast Asia to Afghanistan
India, the US, Australia and Japan – members of the Washington-led Quad security grouping – are expected to hold joint naval exercises for the second year running, in the latest coordinated effort to flex military muscles amid tensions with China.
The four-day joint manoeuvre off the coast of Guam from Thursday will feature “complex surface, subsurface and air operations including live weapon firing drills, anti-surface, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare drills, and joint manoeuvres and tactical exercises”, an Indian Navy spokesman told The Hindu.
The Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which pledges to promote a free, open and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, is viewed by Beijing as part of a campaign to contain China’s growing influence in the region. The Chinese foreign minister has labelled it the “Indo-Pacific NATO”.
Two Indian Navy warships arrived in Guam on Saturday for the annual Malabar naval exercise, which will “witness high-tempo exercises among destroyers, frigates, corvettes, submarines, helicopters and long-range maritime patrol aircraft of the participating navies”, its spokesman said, adding that the holding of four-way exercises during the pandemic was itself a “testimony of synergy”.
Beginning with bilateral naval drills between India and the US in 1992, the Malabar naval exercises were expanded in 2015 when Japan became a permanent member. Last year, Australia joined at the invitation of India, effectively making it an exercise joined by navies of all the four Quad members.
This year’s Malabar exercise is being held as tensions between China and the US have intensified on multiple fronts, from Taiwan and Southeast Asia to Afghanistan, where America’s hasty and chaotic withdrawal has been portrayed by Chinese officials and media as the latest evidence of a decaying US global hegemony.
It also comes close on the heels of a high-profile tour by US Vice-President Kamala Harris, who arrived in Singapore on Sunday for a five-day tour of Southeast Asia. Harris, the most senior official of the Biden administration to visit the region, is expected to stop in Vietnam next, with reassurances about the US’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific likely to be high on her agenda.
Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, have labelled the Quad as Asia’s NATO and blamed the US for sowing discord among countries in the region.
Meanwhile, the Quad members are also bolstering security ties among themselves and with other countries.
In April, the four nations joined the French navy for a three-day ‘Quad-plus’ La Perouse naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal.
And last week, the navy chiefs of India and Australia signed a guidance document to streamline interactions between the two forces at various levels.
Also last week, India and Vietnam conducted joint exercises in the South China Sea, where the two navies conducted surface warfare exercises, weapon-firing drills and helicopter operations.