The navies of the U.S., Australia, India, and Japan began exercises on Tuesday in the Northern Arabian Sea, launching the second phase of a joint “Malabar 2020” naval drill viewed by observers as a regional deterrent to China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.
The “Malabar 2020” naval exercise “highlights enhanced convergence of views amongst the four vibrant democracies on maritime issues,” India’s defense ministry said in a statement, as quoted by U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.
The first phase of the Malabar drill took place November 3-6 in the Bay of Bengal, the northeastern portion of the Indian Ocean. The Arabian Sea is located in the Indian Ocean’s northwest.
The second phase exercises “consist of operations centered on the Indian navy’s Vikramaditya carrier battle group and the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz carrier strike group,” according to the Indian defense ministry statement.
“The two carriers, along with other ships, submarines and aircraft of the participating navies, will be engaged in high-intensity naval operations that include cross-deck flying operations and advanced air defense exercises by MIG-29K fighters of the Vikramaditya and F-18 fighters and E2C Hawkeyes from the Nimitz,” Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported.
“Advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings will also be undertaken to further enhance interoperability and synergy between the four friendly navies,” the Indian Navy said in a statement.
“The Australian frigate Ballarat, Japan’s Murasame destroyer, and submarines and aircraft are also participating in the exercise,” Stars and Stripes reported.
The Indian and U.S. navies began the Malabar exercises in 1992 as a bilateral drill. Japan joined the annual exercises in 2015. Australia is participating in the drill this year for the first time since 2007.
The four countries form a strategic alliance known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, with the shared goal of countering Chinese expansion in the Indo-Pacific region. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted a meeting with the foreign ministers of Quad member nations in Tokyo on October 6 meant to solidify the U.S. alliance with its Asian allies, especially in the face of increased aggression by China.
India has been engaged in a tense border standoff with China in the Western Himalayas since mid-June when the neighbors’ border regiments clashed in their deadliest military conflict in at least 45 years. Since then, New Delhi has cut major business and trade ties with Beijing.
Australia has suffered from increased trade restrictions by China after Canberra in April backed an impartial probe into the true origins of the Chinese coronavirus, which Beijing has been accused of obfuscating. The Australian government has since cracked down on alleged foreign interference by Beijing in Canberra’s affairs.
Japan has been forced to defend its territorial waters and island chains from increased harassment by the China Coast Guard in recent months.