Malabar 2020: After 13 years, the Quad resumes naval war games - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Stuff.

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Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Malabar 2020: After 13 years, the Quad resumes naval war games

 


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 4th Nov 20

 

Thirteen years after they last exercised together in the Indo-Pacific, navies of the four Quadrilateral (Quad) grouping countries came together again on Tuesday in an annual multi-national maritime exercise called Exercise Malabar.

 

After the Quad last exercised together in 2007, Beijing made it clear it regarded Exercise Malabar as the military manifestation of a US-Japan-Australia-India “alliance of democracies”, aimed at containing China.

 

In response that year, New Delhi and Canberra soothed Beijing’s concerns and Malabar returned to being a bilateral exercise between the Indian and US navies. However, China’s growing assertiveness and regional muscle flexing brought Japan back into Exercise Malabar in 2015, and Australia this year.

 

In an unusually political statement, the ministry of defence (MoD) stated on Monday that this year’s Exercise Malabar would “showcase the high-levels of synergy and coordination between the friendly navies, which is based on their shared values and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order.”

 

As was the case in 2007, this year’s 24th edition of Exercise Malabar is divided into two phases. The first is scheduled to be conducted in the Bay of Bengal from Tuesday to Friday, and the second, much larger phase in mid-November. 

 

Phase-1 will involve one warship each from the US, Japan and Australia. These will include the American guided-missile destroyer, USS John S McCain; the Australian long range frigate, HMAS Ballarat, and the Japanese destroyer, JMSDF Onami.   

 

Indian warships participating include the destroyer INS Ranvijay, stealth frigate INS Shivalik, offshore patrol vessel INS Sukanya, fleet support ship INS Shakti and the submarine INS Sindhuraj, along with P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft.

 

This is a sigificantly lower participation than 2007, when 16 warships participated in the first phase of the exercise and 26 warships in the second part. However, navy sources say the second part of Malabar 2020, which will be conducted in the Arabian Sea in mid-November, will feature far greater participation, including by aircraft carriers.

 

Furthermore, the sophistication level of Exercise Malabar has systematically risen over the years. According to the MoD, the exercise that began today “would witness complex and advanced naval exercises including surface, anti-submarine and anti-air warfare operations, cross deck flying, seamanship evolutions and weapon firing exercises.”

 

In addition, the signature by India of two foundational defence agreements -- the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018 and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Intelligence (BECA) last month – open the doors for far greater sharing of communications, intelligence and geo-spatial data.

 

India also has agreements for military logistics support with all three countries participating in Malabar. This will permit their warships to remain in the Indian Ocean Region for extended periods, plugged into Indian Navy logistics systems.

 

Malabar 2020 is being conducted as a “non-contact, at sea only” exercise in view of COVID-19 pandemic


 

Exercise Malabar Total ships and submarines

India

US

Japan

Australia

Singapore

Total

2007-01

5

7

4

-

-

16

2007-02

8

13

2

2

1

26

2008

6

6

-

-

-

12

2009

3

4

2

-

-

9

2010

5

5

-

-

-

10

2011

5

7

-

-

-

12

2012

5

5

-

-

-

10

2013

2

1

-

-

-

3

2014

3

5

2

-

-

10

2015

4

3

1

-

-

8

2016

4

5

1

-

-

10

2017

9

6

2

-

-

17

2018

3

6

4

-

-

13

2019

2

2

3

-

7

2020-01

5

1

1

1

-

8





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