India will discuss its decision on whether to allow Australia into the Malabar trilateral exercise at the next week’s Quad Foreign Ministers meeting in Tokyo, a defence source said.
“The issue would be discussed when they meet in Tokyo on October 6. Based on the understanding reached, a formal announcement could be made by the Ministry of Defence here,” the source said.
This year’s edition of the exercise consisting of India, Japan and the U.S. is scheduled to take place in mid-November, the source said. India and the U.S. are also scheduled to hold the next round of 2+2 ministerial dialogue later in October.
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar will visit Japan from October 6-7 for the second India-Australia-Japan-U.S. ministerial meeting, the External Affairs Ministry said on Tuesday.
No final decision
The Defence Ministry on Friday discussed the issue of inviting Australia for the Malabar exercise and an understanding has been reached but no final decision was taken. As reported by The Hindu on June 3, after years of reluctance due to Beijing’s sensitivities India said it was open to Australia’s inclusion in the Malabar which began as a bilateral naval exercise between India and the U.S. in 1992 and was expanded with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
The exercise has also grown in scope and complexity over the years further boosted by India signing three of the four foundational agreements with the U.S. and increasing defence procurements from the U.S. increasing interoperability. Japan and the U.S. have been pressing India for Australia’s inclusion in Malabar.
Dr. Jaishankar will also hold bilateral consultations with his counterparts of Australia and the U.S. during the visit. “The Ministers shall discuss the post-COVID-19 international order and the need for a coordinated response to the various challenges emerging from the pandemic. They will also discuss regional issues and collectively affirm the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,” the MEA said on the Quad meeting.
In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said, “It is timely that the Foreign Ministers of the four nations who share the same ambitions over regional matters exchange views over various challenges.”
With India and Japan signing a military logistics agreement early this month, India now has such agreements with all Quad countries. India has also signed maritime information sharing agreements for Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) with Australia and Japan and a similar agreement is under discussion with the U.S.
Australia first requested for observer status in the exercise in 2017. While New Delhi was reluctant to accept Canberra’s request, the bilateral cooperation has gone up significantly over the years.
No one should seek an exclusive clique: China
To questions on the Quad meeting, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in Beijing that multilateral and plurilateral cooperation should all be open, inclusive and transparent and no one should seek an “exclusive clique”.
“Efforts should be made to enhance regional countries mutual understanding and trust, instead of targeting a third party or harming third party’s interests. We hope the relevant country will proceed from the interests of regional countries and do more things conducive to regional peace, stability and development instead of the contrary,” Wang Wenbin said.