Australia welcomed key partners India, Japan and the United States to Sydney as it hosted Exercise Malabar for the first time.
Exercise Malabar is an important Indo-Pacific military exercise that seeks to deepen interoperability between participating regional partners. This year marks the 27th iteration of the Malabar series, held in the Sydney and across Australia’s east from 10 to 21 August.
Royal Australian Navy Ships HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Choules participated in the exercise, with Navy MH60R helicopters and Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II, Hawk 127 and P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
Australia joined the Quad for the first time since 2007 in November 2020, and Japan became a regular participant in the group in 2015.
Ships from Japan, India, and the United States entered Sydney Harbour on August 11 to join the Australian HMAS in conducting the Malabar naval drills. The Malabar Exercise, which is being held off the coast of Australia for the first time, is the most glaring illustration of the growing military interoperability, mutual trust, and coordinated response of the Quad countries to maintain stability and security in the Indo-Pacific, where concern over China’s rise and military assertiveness is on the rise. This Malabar Exercise, in contrast to other drills, has greater depth and represents a substantial improvement in the quad strengthening.
Quotes attributable to Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Richard Marles MP:
“It is an honour to host Exercise Malabar for the first time here in Australia.
“Amid the current strategic circumstances, it is more important than ever we partner with our neighbours, and deepen our defence partnerships.
“Cooperation, shared understanding and knowledge coupled with training contributes to shared security and prosperity for our region.”
Quotes attributable to the Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Hammond, AO:
“The Royal Australian Navy is honoured the Indian Navy has provided us the opportunity to host Exercise Malabar; reinforcing the trust and strength of our Navy to Navy relationship.
‘’This esteemed exercise provides rich opportunities for our people to work and train together, to be prepared as high-functioning teams ready to face the complex challenges of the maritime domain.”
“Exercise Malabar is an investment in Australia’s Navy to Navy relationships, as well as the relationship between the four Navies involved. In this way we complement diplomatic efforts to deepen our regional ties and contribute to a region based on trust and respect.”
Most of the drills in the past have taken place in the Indian and Arabian Oceans, which are a hotspot for the Indo-Chinese strategic confrontation, off the coasts of India and Japan. The drill is a respectable atonement for the last-minute cancellation of the Sydney Quad Summit Meeting. Furthermore, the location and the fact that Australia is participating are essential. Despite Australia’s problematic participation in the Malabar Exercise, this demonstrates the Quad countries’ ability to work together and their credibility to do so given the drill’s regularity and complexity.
The recent Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN), Joint Australia-US Military Exercise, and the 2023 Talisman Sabre exercise, which involved 13 nations’ navies, including Australia, the US, Japan, and South Korea, further strengthen and open the door for actual cooperation in the Quad defence.
As ‘inviting like-minded partners to participate’ is mentioned in the joint statement that was made following the most recent AUSMIN, it is possible that in the future, nations like Japan and India, who have already been invited to join US-Australia force posture initiatives, will send aircraft to take part in joint maritime surveillance operations from Australian air bases.
The Quad is still evolving into a strong Indo-Pacific policy. The rising sophistication of the Malabar Exercise and the subsequent summit meetings show how the Quad has come together for a single strategic goal, balancing China’s desire to dominate the Indo-Pacific. At the bilateral and trilateral levels, the Quad states’ extensive, sophisticated, and robust defence ties serve as evidence of the Quad’s growing power. The most recent Malabar Exercise, along with everything else the Quad partners undertake together, sends a statement that all four nations are committed to and capable of upholding the core values of sustaining a free, open, and safe Indo-Pacific.