With an eye towards China, Australia will join the US, India, and Japan in the annual Malabar naval exercises next month. The drills will be held off India’s coast in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
The Malabar drills began as an annual joint US-Indian operation in 1992. Japan joined the exercise on a permanent basis in 2015, and Australia last participated in the drills in 2007.
The four countries make up the informal alliance known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or the Quad. Next month will be the first time in years that all four nations participate in military exercises together.
The Malabar exercises come at a time of heightened tensions between India and China over a border dispute in the Himalayas. Tensions are also high between the US and China, due in large part to Washington’s increased military activity in the region. On Monday, the US, Australia, and Japan participated in trilateral exercises in the South China Sea.
Earlier this month, representatives from the Quad nations met in Tokyo. In a speech ahead of the meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear that Washington intends to boost the alliance to counter Beijing. Pompeo said he wishes to see the Quad turn into a formal security alliance.
In August, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun suggested the Quad could be the foundation for a NATO-style alliance in the Indo-Pacific.