The high-voltage Malabar exercise featuring the navies of all four Quad countries — India, the United States, Australia and Japan —- began on Thursday off the coast of Guam in the backdrop of the resolve by the four nations to work towards a free and open Indo-Pacific in view of China's expansionist behaviour in the region.
A range of complex drills involving warships, aircraft and helicopters will be carried out during the four-day exercise which is being hosted by the US Navy in the Western Pacific, officials said.
The Indian Navy has deployed its stealth frigate INS Shivalik, anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kadmatt and a fleet of P8I maritime surveillance aircraft, they said.
The 25th edition of the Malabar exercise is taking place in the midst of growing convergence of interests in the maritime domain among the four Quad countries.
"Malabar-21 would witness complex exercises including anti-surface, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare drill, and other manoeuvres and tactical exercises. The exercise will provide an opportunity for participating navies to derive benefit from each other's expertise and experiences," Indian Navy Spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said.
In an interactive session at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Admiral John Aquilino on Wednesday spoke about key challenges facing the Indo-Pacific and delved into China's rapid military build-up including in the maritime domain.
Admiral Aquilino also hinted at the possibility of increasing the number of participants at the Malabar naval exercise if leaders of the four participating countries concur with it.
Following India's invitation, Australia participated in the Malabar exercise last year that effectively made it a drill by all four member nations of the Quad.
China has been suspicious about the purpose of the Malabar exercise as it feels that the annual wargame is an effort to contain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Malabar exercise started in 1992 as a bilateral drill between the Indian Navy and the U.S. Navy in the Indian Ocean. Japan became a permanent member of the exercise in 2015. This annual exercise was conducted off the coast of Guam in 2018 and off the coast of Japan in 2019.
Last year, the exercise was hosted in two phases in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
There have been mounting global concerns over China's growing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
India, the U.S., Australia, Japan and many other like-minded countries are working towards ensuring a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.