Australia to host Exercise Malabar for the first time - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 10 August 2023

Australia to host Exercise Malabar for the first time


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 11th Aug 23


Two of the Indian Navy's indigenous, frontline warships have sailed to Australia to participate in the quadrilateral Exercise Malabar 2023, which is scheduled to be held off Sydney from August 11-21.


An Indian multi-role frigate, INS Sahyadri, and a guided missile destroyer, INS Kolkata will represent the Indian Navy. The quadrilateral exercise will also see participation from ships and aircraft of the US Navy (USN), the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).


The Malabar series of maritime exercises commenced in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between the Indian and the US Navies. Over the years, it has grown in stature to become a premier quadrilateral training event in the security calendar of Indo-Pacific Region.


Malabar 2020, three years ago, witnessed the maiden participation of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). This year, the 27th edition of Malabar is being hosted by the Australians.


Malabar 2023 will be conducted in two phases. First will come the Harbour Phase, which involves navy-to-navy activities such as cross-deck visits, professional exchanges, sports fixtures and interactions for planning and conducting the Sea Phase.


That will be followed by the Sea Phase, which brings real security value to the exercise. This part will include complex and high intensity exercises in all three domains of warfare – anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-air exercises – including live weapon firing drills.


Malabar provides all four quadrilateral navies, including the Indian Navy, the opportunity to enhance and demonstrate interoperability and to learn each others’ best practices in maritime security operations.


China has made it known to the four Quadrilateral countries that it sees Malabar as an inimical grouping. After Malabar 2007, China conveyed its displeasure, seeking to know whom the exercise was directed against.


In September 2021, Washington, London and Canberra announced the formation of a new trilateral grouping called AUKUS (an acronym for Australia, UK and US). Under the pact, the US and the UK have announced they will assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines.


Exercise Malabar 2023 is being held on a noticeably low key, possibly to de-escalate the tensions that had built up between Beijing and New Delhi after the intrusions into Eastern Ladakh by the People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLA(N) in 2020.


In contrast to the participation this year of just two Indian Navy warships, the largest participation in Malabar had taken place in 2007, when a total of 26 warships had taken part, including eight Indian vessels.


India’s participation this year is designed to showcase the country’s ability to build warships indigenously. INS Sahyadri is the third indigenously designed and built Project-17-class, multi-role, stealth frigate. Meanwhile, INS Kolkata is the first guided missile destroyer of the indigenous Project-15A class.


Both ships have been built at Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai and are fitted with state-of-the-art array of weapons and sensors to detect and neutralise threats in surface, air and underwater domains.

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