Australia will join India, the United States and Japan in next month’s Malabar naval exercises in the Indian Ocean, in a move that is expected to strengthen the military relationship between the four countries amid increased tensions with China.
The participation of Australia means that all four members of the so-called Quad will be participating in the exercises for the first time since 2007.
The Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is an informal strategic forum for the US, Japan, Australia and India, featuring semi-regular summits and information exchanges between the four nations.
While not a formal military alliance like NATO, it is seen by some as a potential counterweight to growing Chinese influence and alleged aggression in Asia-Pacific. The collation has been denounced by Beijing as an anti-China bloc.
Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said late on Monday that the drills were about “demonstrating our collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific” – a allusion to countering China’s power.
India’s Ministry of Defence said the naval drill would take place in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, which has been a hotspot for Indo-Chinese strategic competition.
The drill comes at a time of diplomatic tensions between China and Australia, economic tensions between China and the US and military tensions between China and India.
A renewed push to develop the Quad into a formal counterbalance to China included talks between foreign ministers in Tokyo earlier this month.
At that meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Asian allies to unite against China’s “exploitation, corruption and coercion” in the region./.