- The multilateral war-gaming exercise Malabar, which saw the participation of all four member nations of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) for the first time since 2007, and included participation of carrier strike groups, submarines, fighter jets and other vessels, concluded on Friday.
- The naval exercise was conducted in two phases, first off the Visakhapatnam coast earlier in November, and the second in the Arabian Sea, starting November 17.
- The Navy said in a statement that the 24th edition of Malabar maritime exercise, “hosted by Indian Navy (IN) in two phases, concluded in the Arabian Sea” on Friday. “Phase 1 of the exercise involving participation by Indian Navy (IN), United States Navy (USN), Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN), was conducted off Visakhapatnam in Bay of Bengal” between November 3 and 6.
- In the second phase, the Navy said, the four navies “participated in joint operations centered on the Vikramaditya Carrier Battle Group of the Indian Navy and Nimitz Carrier Strike Group of the US Navy”. The two aircraft carriers, it said, “along with other ships, submarine and aircraft of the participating navies, engaged in high intensity naval operations including cross-deck flying operations and advanced air defence exercises by MIG 29K fighters of Vikramaditya and F/A-18 fighters and E2C Hawkeye from Nimitz”.
- US Navy’s Strike Carrier Nimitz was accompanied by cruiser Princeton and destroyer Sterett in addition to P8A maritime reconnaissance aircraft, and the Australian and Japanese navies were represented by frigate Ballarat and destroyer Murasame, respectively, along with their integral helicopters.
- Beyond INS Vikramaditya, the Indian Naval Ships including the indigenous destroyers Kolkata and Chennai, stealth frigate Talwar, Fleet Support Ship Deepak and the integral helicopters of these warships, indigenously built submarine Khanderi and P8I and IL-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, also participated in the second phase in the Arabian Sea.
- Mentioning some of the exercises that took place in both phases, the Navy mentioned that “in addition to ‘Dual Carrier’ operations, advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings were also undertaken… demonstrating the synergy, coordination and inter-operability between the four friendly navies”.
- On November 5, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, without mentioning Malabar, had stated in an address at the National Defence College that India’s “interests to secure trade routes, shipping lines of communication, fishing rights and communication networks also require the ability to contribute to the global effort, to maintain open and free oceans.” He had said that it is “the essence of our initiative to be a part of the Indo-Pacific initiative”.
Australia Joined Malabar Exercise
- It is an annual trilateral naval exercise between the navies of India, Japan, and the USA which is held alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
- It began as a bilateral naval exercise between India and the USA in 1992 and was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
- The Exercise is aimed to support free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and remain committed to a rules based international order.
- It is also aimed at interoperability with an emphasis on humanitarian assistance, surface war manoeuvres, anti-submarines warfare, counter-terror operations, gunnery training and aerial surveillance.
2020 Malabar Exercise:
- The 2020 Exercise is expected to be held in theBay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. In 2019, the exercise was conducted off the coast of Japan.
- Due to Covid-19 pandemicthe exercise had been planned in a ‘non-contact – at sea’ format.
- Its objectiveis to enhance safety and security in the maritime domain.
- The issue of Australia’s inclusion in Malabar had again come up for discussion at the Quadforeign ministers meet in Tokyo held in October 2020. Thereafter, India invited Australia to join the Exercise.
- Quadis the informal strategic dialogue between India, the USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to ensure and support a free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.
- The move will bolster the ability of India, Australia, Japan and the United States to work together touphold peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region.
- It is also expected to further lay the foundations for the eventual formalisation of the Quad grouping.
- Despite regular requests from Australia, India resisted issuing the invitation due to its concerns that the move would give the appearance of a‘quadrilateral military alliance’ aimed at China.
- In 2017, Australia had requested for observer status in the Malabar Exercise.
- China has repeatedly expressed strong opposition to any expansion of the Malabar Exercise, which it sees as a multilateral naval construct designed to “counter and contain” it.
- However, the recent India-China tensionsover the situation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) may have brought more flexibility to India’s decision making process.
- Japan and the U.S.A also have been pressing Indiafor Australia’s inclusion in Malabar Exercise.
Other Cooperation Between Quad Members:
- India and Japan had signed a military logistics agreementin September, 2020.
- India has signed maritime information sharing agreements for Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)with Australia and Japan and a similar agreement is under discussion with the U.S.A.
- MDA is defined by the International Maritime Organization as the effective understanding of anything associated with the maritime domain that could impact the security, safety, economy, or environment of a country.
- India and U.S.A. are also stepping up efforts to conclude the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement(BECA) ahead of the Indo-US 2+2 ministerial meeting on 26-27 October, 2020.
- BECA, a key military pact, will allow India to use U.S.A.’s geospatial intelligence and enhance accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones.
- BECA is one of the four foundational military communication agreementsbetween the two countries. The other three being GSOMIA, LEMOA, CISMOA.
- GSOMIA:General Security Of Military Information Agreement
- LEMOA:Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement
- CISMOA:Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement
- Defence and Foreign ministers of the two countries will Participate at the 2+2 ministerial meeting.
- As India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain, high-end military exercises like Malabar are key to enhancing maritime capabilities, building interoperability with its close partners, and demonstrating its collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
- The fast-tracking of work on BECA and the decision of the four Quad countries to participate in the Malabar Exercise are perceived to be a strategic signal to an aggressive China.