India, the United States, Australia, and Japan, which form a security grouping commonly known as the Quad, have kicked off the 25th edition of joint naval drills off the coast of the Pacific island of Guam.
The navies of the four countries will hold the latest series of the exercises, called Malabar 21, with the participation of destroyers, frigates, corvettes, submarines, helicopters, and long-range maritime patrol aircraft in the Pacific Ocean from August 26 to 29.
“MALABAR-21 would witness complex exercises including anti-surface, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare drills, and other maneuvers and tactical exercises. The exercise will provide an opportunity for participating navies to derive benefits from each other’s expertise and experiences,” the Indian navy said in a statement on Thursday.
“The aim of the exercise is to increase interoperability amongst the participating navies, develop common understanding and SOPs for Maritime Security Operations,” the statement added.
The so-called Quad countries have been increasing their interactions in recent years in an attempt to project themselves as a cohesive force to protect their interests in the region, amid China’s growing influence in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
On Wednesday, Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command Admiral John Aquilino warned the partner countries about the alleged largest military build-up since the Second World War by China, urging the members to increase interoperability to counter “the threats” posed by the People’s Liberation Army-Navy.
Beijing views the Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, as part of a US-led campaign to undermine China’s interests. Back in March, when leaders of the Quad group met for the first time, China’s Foreign Ministry said, “We hope the relevant countries will follow the principles of openness, inclusiveness and win-win results, refrain from forming closed and exclusive ‘cliques’ and act in a way that is conducive to regional peace, stability and prosperity.”
The Malabar series of maritime exercises, which began as an annual bilateral naval exercise between India and the US in 1992, has seen increasing scope over the years. In 2015, Japan joined Malabar as a permanent member. The 2020 edition witnessed the participation of the Australian navy following India’s invitation.
US President Joe Biden is likely to hold an in-person QUAD summit, the first ever, in Washington to deepen the cooperation among the member countries, according to the Indian media.