This year’s annual Malabar-21 naval drills—held off the US western pacific territory of Guam—will conclude today.
Quad security dialogue navies: Australia, India, Japan and the US participated in the four-day naval exercises which included anti-surface, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare drills. Originally an Indo-American exercise held sporadically between 1992-2002, Malabar has been an annual event since 2002. This year marks the second consecutive year the Quad nations have participated as a full group after India approved of Australia’s participation for a second year.
This signals India’s increasing commitment to the Quad after years of diplomatic reluctance. New Delhi has essentially incorporated Malabar into New Delhi’s “Act East” policies under Prime Minister Narendra Modi—policies aimed at countering China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Amid heightened tension with China, the exercises are likely aimed at countering the expanding capabilities of the Chinese navy—which held its own naval exercises on August 24.
Expect an increasing Indian naval presence in the South China Sea in the near-to-medium term, marking an ongoing ramping-up of a relatively new military component to “Act East”. This includes further naval drills and other military cooperation with allies such as Vietnam, Philippines, and Singapore within the region.
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John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.