Malabar exercises seen as 'Quad' exercise in all but name . . .
India, the U.S., Japan, and Australia began the annual Malabar military exercises in the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday. Although the exercise is not officially linked to the 'Quad' security forum that took place last month in Tokyo, the timing of Australia's addition to the exercise – the first in 13 years – is notable. The drills will take place in two parts throughout November and are designed to enhance the participating navies' interoperability. The U.S. and India began the Malabar exercise in 1992. Japan and Australia first participated in 2007, to which Beijing issued a diplomatic protest leading to Australia’s withdrawal from the exercises.
Not so quiet on other fronts . . .
The exercises come at a time when each of the participating countries has seen rising tensions with China. For example, tensions along parts of the India-China border are the worst in decades. Over the last few months and days, China has upped the number of import restrictions on Australian goods, including barley, wine, lobster, copper, and coal. And the U.S.-China trade and tech war continues. The participating U.S. destroyer's commanding officer mentioned China in all but name when he said that the exercises and co-operation among these like-minded countries were key to Indo-Pacific security and stability.
Malabar, not the only 'games' in play . . .
The region has seen a steady rise in military exercises and demonstrations. China, which held simultaneous military drills in the region in September, has also been increasing its incursions in the waters and airspace around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and Taiwan. And the U.S.-Japan biennial joint 'Keen Sword' exercises in the East China Sea and Okinawa are wrapping up tomorrow. Canada participated in Keen Sword for the first time in 2018 and did so again this year with the HMCS Winnipeg frigate, which also sailed through the Taiwan Strait on its way to the military exercise.
- Asia Times: US, Japan join forces in exercise ‘Keen Sword 21’
- The Japan Times: Malabar military exercises with 'Quad' nations begin in message to China
- South China Morning Post: Australia sends signal to China as it rejoins US, Japan and India for Malabar naval exercise