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India, US, Japan and Australia kick-start Malabar naval exercise in Bay of Bengal

The navies of India, the US, Japan and Australia on Tuesday held a series of complex manoeuvres in the Bay of Bengal, kick-starting the four-day-long first phase of the Malabar naval exercise, seen as a prelude to future military cooperation among the member nations of the Quad or Quadrilateral Coalition.

The mega exercise is taking place at a time India and China are locked in a nearly six-month-long bitter border standoff in eastern Ladakh.

Japan, Australia and the US—the three other participants of the exercise—too are having fractious ties with China in the last few months over a range of contentious issues.

“Several complex military drills were conducted on the first day of the exercise in the Bay of Bengal,” a military official said.

The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China’s increasing military muscle-flexing has become a major talking point among the leading global powers. The US has been favouring making Quad a security architecture to check China’s growing assertiveness.

In a tweet, the US Embassy said the exercise reaffirmed the commitment of the participating countries to stronger defence cooperation in the Indo Pacific region.

Last month, India announced that Australia will be part of the Malabar exercise.

The first segment of the exercise is from November 3 to 6 while the second phase of the drill is scheduled to be held from November 17 to 20 in the Arabian sea.

“The exercise, being conducted as a non-contact, at sea only’ exercise in view of COVID-19 pandemic, will showcase the high-levels of synergy and coordination between the friendly navies, which is based on their shared values and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order,” the Indian Navy had said in a statement on Monday.

Meanwhile, China on Tuesday hoped that the quadrilateral Malabar exercises would be conducive to the regional peace and stability instead of the contrary.

“We hope that relevant countries’ military operations will be conducive to peace and stability in the region instead of the contrary,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing in Beijing.