Authored By:

Jincy Ansa Jose (Research Intern)

Malabar drill exercise is a trilateral naval exercise including USA, Japan, and India. This takes place in the Indian and the Pacific Ocean alternately. The Ministry of Defence, India on 19th October 2020, announced an update regarding this exercise. The inclusion of the Royal Navy of Australia was with an outlook to increase the security of the maritime domain in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. This informal strategic approach was first contemplated and envisioned by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the year 2007. (2020) The idea of forming a group was to implement the shared objective of ensuring a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. In 1992, when the Malabar exercise started, it was introduced bilaterally between India and the US Navy, and it was made trilateral by the inclusion of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in 2015. The influencing factor for this inclusion was the joint declaration on security cooperation formed in 2008.

Australia, in many instances, advanced its interest in joining the Quad. In 2017, Australia applied for an “observer” status. This advance for inclusion was denied as it will create unnecessary tussle and ruckus with proliferating the message of grouping against China and as a consequence, Australia was not included in the drill of 2018 and 2019. In the year 2007, this exercise for the first time included a small Singaporean contingent and coincided with the original convening of the Quad. This quad was further disbanded after the protest from the Chinese Government. (2020) Australia’s entry to the exercise will increase and evolve the states’ significance for the Quad. This invitation paves the way to the first exercise to include all four Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” nations since 2007. The Malabar drill, hence, proves to be quintessential with the recent tremors in the Eastern Ladakh. Over time, both U.S and Japan were trying to include Australia which India did not support due to the opposition of China and not wanting to strain the bilateral treaties. The revamp of the robust quad discussion was prompted by the new joining of forces.

The prospective gains to be attained from this matter to be considered in two folds; India in an international arena with the prosperity of Indo-Pacific Oceans and India as in enhancing its defence. The priority of India is to acquire required any strategic approach and capabilities to counter any uprising in the Indian Ocean. This development is often considered as the awaited movement to enhance safety and security in the maritime domain. The strengthening of coordination between the participating countries’ navy forces is the primary concern of this year. The participating countries collectively intend to attain a free, open, and inclusive Pacific. This approach can indeed create an international order based on rules. Certain experts point out that the already sophisticated past editions of this engagement now come with logistics support from four countries. The international relations impact of this quad agreement is already accepted among the international arena. Even though the Chinese Navy avoided entanglement in sub-continental littorals with the Indian Navy, there is no threshold to content or provide conclusive surety in this matter. A new era of maritime security has been heralded and as the words of Australian Defence Minster Linda Reynolds and the Indian Ministry of Defense to elucidate the enhancement of maritime capability through inter-operability definitely, bring hopes up (Sharma, 2020). The Australian resources for surveillance can be of great utility to protect the Indian Ocean Region. There are many success stories of the informal alliances which created major impacts, including the countries joining forces with the EU and NATO to control Somali Piracy (Debating the Quad, 2018). It is often concluded that even the minor impact on marine crime can, in turn, create great benefit and build a stronger relationship between the four states.

With the disturbances in the border with China, its approach towards the quad is always enumerated to the geo-economic nature. The naval coalition cannot be the only credible force in the Indian ocean. The combat and deterrence can for sure yield gains to India. China may perceive the joining of this maritime quadrilateral as a blow to its rise. As a warning to the advances China already stepped up its naval deterrence in the South China Sea. There is a high vulnerability on the side of India if it is used to drag into the strategic contest between the USA and China in East Asia. The possibility of this measure that the security quad may be unnecessarily drawn into the political dynamics. The US and Japanese navies do not pose too much of utility to be compared with the little spare capacity to sustain surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region. Chinese research and intelligence ship which was observed close to the Andaman Islands has relatively expanded, but Chinese maritime agencies have gone about their task cautiously, ensuring that operations do not cross the bilateral infringement and thus any conflict with India.

The idea of quad being fully functioning is indeed challenging. India should cautiously approach the “quad”. The new awakening to this aspect might convey a different message to Beijing, which can create a major effect on the negotiations going on in the border. Beijing has always opposed the coalition of democracies in the Indo-Pacific region. Strained relations between the two countries which is creating posturing.China if reacts aggressively, will strain and create a new front for conflict. Experts have an opinion that it might be premature (Singh, 2020) on India’s side to initiate multilateral engagement with Quad partners. The up-gradation of this trilateral matter to quadrilateral matter should be calculated intensely and inferred with relevant expert opinion in the long run. Signing and ratification of this engagement should be critically evaluated with cost-analysis and feasibility variables in the realm of strategic operation.


2020. CURRENT AFFAIRS TODAY. [Online] October 2o, 2020. [Cited: October 30, 2020.]

Debating the Quad. Percy, Sarah. 2018. s.l. : Australian National University, March 2018.

2020. NEXT IAS. NEXT IAS. [Online] October 20, 2020. [Cited: October 28, 2020.]

Sharma, Karan and Khan, Wajahat. 2020. NIKKEI ASIA. [Online] OCTOBER 20, 2020. [Cited: October 30, 2020.]

Singh, Abhijit. 2020. THE HINDU. [Online] October 20, 2020. [Cited: October 30, 2020.]

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