In the aftermath of its bitter border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, India will hold the first phase of the Malabar naval exercise with navies of the US, Japan and Australia from tomorrow (i.e. Tuesday, November 3) to Friday (November 6) in the Bay of Bengal off Visakhapatnam coast.
The second phase of the mega exercise is scheduled to be held from November 17 to 20 in the Arabian sea.
Last week, India announced that Australia will be part of the Malabar exercise which effectively makes it a drill by all four member nations of the Quad or Quadrilateral coalition.
What is the 'Quad'?
In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia had given shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the "Quad" to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.
The US has been favouring making Quad a security architecture to check China's growing assertiveness.
Why does it irk China?
China has been suspicious about the purpose of the Malabar exercise as it feels that the annual war game is an effort to contain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The invitation by India to the Australian Navy for the exercise came two weeks after foreign ministers of the 'Quad' member nations held extensive talks in Tokyo with a focus on enhancing their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, a region where China has been expanding its military influence.
"The exercise will showcase the high-levels of synergy and coordination between the friendly navies in reflection of their shared values and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order," said a military official.
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 leading global powers.
'Surface, anti-submarine, anti-air warfare drill'
The officials said the first phase of the drill would witness complex and advanced naval exercises, including surface, anti-submarine and anti-air warfare operations, besides cross-deck flying, seamanship evolutions and weapon firing exercises.
The exercise will be conducted as a "non-contact and at sea only" drill in view of COVID-19 pandemic.
Legacy of the MALABAR exercise
The Malabar exercise started in 1992 as a bilateral drill between the Indian Navy and the US Navy in the Indian Ocean. Japan became a permanent member of the exercise in 2015.
The annual exercise was conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea in 2018 and off the coast of Japan in 2019.
Indian Navy to deploy daunting arsenal
The Indian Navy will deploy a number of key platforms in the exercise which will include destroyer Ranvijay, frigate Shivalik, off-shore patrol vessel Sukanya, fleet support ship Shakti and submarine Sindhuraj.
In addition, advanced jet trainer Hawk, long-range maritime patrol aircraft P-8I, Dornier maritime patrol aircraft, and a number of helicopters will also be participating in the exercise, the officials said.
US Navy ship USS John S McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, Australian Navy's long-range frigate HMAS Ballarat with integral MH-60 helicopter and Japan Maritime Self Defence Force's JS Onami, a destroyer, will be among key platforms to be part of the first phase of the Malabar exercise, they said.
(With inputs from PTI)