NEW DELHI/NEW YORK -- India on Monday said Australia will participate in its annual naval exercise with the U.S. and Japan next month, a move expected to give a boost to defense cooperation among the four members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or "Quad," while raising eyebrows in China.
"As India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and in the light of increased defense cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy," the Indian defense ministry said in a statement.
The announcement comes at a time when India and China are engaged in a tense standoff in eastern Ladakh along their disputed Himalayan border. New Delhi is to organize the Malabar exercise in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea this November.
Malabar began in 1992 as a bilateral India-U.S. drill, with Japan joining on a permanent basis in 2015. It was conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea in 2018 and off the coast of Japan in 2019. Australia last participated in 2007.
"This year, the exercise has been planned on a 'non-contact-at-sea' format" and "will strengthen the coordination between the navies of the participating countries," Indian defense ministry said, adding the participants are "engaging to enhance safety and security in the maritime domain."