Explained: Malabar Exercise 2021

by Akanksha Thakur


Malabar Exercise is the coming together of the Navies of QUAD countries - India, USA, Japan, Australia - to showcase their unity and exchange of confidence through naval drills. Malabar Exercise will be held off the coast of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean from August 26th - 29th.


Source: DNA/ Indian Navy


What are Naval exercises?

Naval exercises are when two or more naval powers meet at one point and conduct amphibious operations as a part of Confidence Building Measures. They showcase an array of drills as an indication of strength, faith, and alliance with participating countries.


What is Malabar exercise?

Malabar Exercise was started in 1992 between India and the US. Japan joined the drill in 2015, followed by Australia in 2020. This year, the Malabar Exercise is expected to showcase “high-tempo exercises among destroyers, frigates, corvettes, submarines, helicopters, and long-range maritime patrol aircraft of the participating navies,” said Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal.

He further added “Complex surface, sub-surface and air operations including live weapon firing drills, anti-surface, anti-air, and anti-submarine warfare drills, and joint manoeuvres and tactical exercises will be conducted during the exercise,”

Malabar - 21 can also be seen as an act of ‘Strategic Signalling’ by the QUAD countries towards China’s growing hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region, especially the South-China Sea. India is all set to enter the Exercise with INS Shivalik and INS Kadmatt.


Why is it important for the QUAD nations?

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or QUAD is a strategic alliance between four like-minded countries that pledge to maintain a safe and free Indo-Pacific region. Their significant aim, as analyzed, is to counter China and its growing assertiveness in the region. The World is witnessing China’s indomitable military presence in the South-China Sea. The QUAD through Malabar -21 would challenge China on this by showing that they stand in unison. As said by Commander Madhwal “The exercise will provide an opportunity for common minded navies to enhance inter-operability, gain from best practices and develop a common understanding of procedures for maritime security operations,”

The extension of the Malabar Exercise in 2015 and 2020 holds great significance. China earlier had refrained India from inviting other countries to Malabar Naval Exercise. However, Japan and then Australia’s addition to the Exercise signals China that the QUAD is here to stay.


What is China’s reaction to this?

China controls most of the South-China Sea. In this regard, the showcase of naval strength by QUAD countries is perceived as a challenge to China’s plans. In 2020, when asked about the drills, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing in Beijing that we hope that relevant countries’ military operations will be conducive to peace and stability in the region instead of the contrary.

China has been showing uneasiness against the drills. Global Times, a communist tabloid reported that “Despite the drill jointly participated by India, the US, Australia, and Japan, experts noted that such an ill-intentioned attempt to corner China is a hollow bluff, and China will not be disrupted by India’s irrationality or US interference,”

China in 2007, had protested against several countries participating in the Malabar Exercise. The countries had to eventually back down. With reference to this, PLA had set up a face-to-face war with the Indian soldiers in eastern Ladakh. Indian territory had been seized by China. China has also had rifts with Japan over Senkaku Islands, and trade wars with Australia and the US. Thus, coming together of all these countries demonstrates vigor and puissance in the face of China’s threats.


About the Author

Akanksha Thakur is a Master’s graduate in German Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is passionate about Geopolitical analysis and International development.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ytharth.

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