Australia will take part in a large-scale military drill off the coast of India next month that will bring together a quartet of countries concerned by rising Chinese influence.
India, Japan, the United States and — for the first time since 2007 — Australia will take part in this November’s Malabar naval exercise, a move that will likely spark Chinese protest.
Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds late Monday said the exercise was about “demonstrating our collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific” — a well-used allusion to countering China’s authoritarian power.
India’s Ministry of Defence said the naval drill would take place in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, which has been a hotspot for Indo-Chinese strategic competition.
Over the last few decades, China has tried to significantly increase influence in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, prompting acute concern in New Delhi.
The drill comes at a time of diplomatic tensions between China and Australia, economic tensions between China and the United States and military tensions between China and India.
India and China have poured tens of thousands of troops into a remote border zone since fighting a pitched battle in June which killed 20 Indian troops and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers.
The so-called “quad” has been touted as a means of countering Chinese influence — including an enormous decades-long investment in modernising the People’s Liberation Army-Navy.
But the grouping has often faltered amid disagreements about how much to confront, contain or engage Beijing.
A renewed push to develop the “quad” into a formal counterbalance to China has included talks between foreign ministers in Tokyo earlier this month.
At that meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Asian allies to unite against China’s “exploitation, corruption and coercion” in the region. (AFP)