India Likely to Invite Australia to Join Exercise Malabar 2017
The Indian Navy has clarified that no final decision has been made by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to exclude Australia from the upcoming tri-nation Exercise Malabar naval drill.
Media reports since late may claim India rejected Australia's request to participate in Asia's largest multinational naval wargame -- Exercise Malabar -- out of fear of distressing China. The three participating navies are the Indian Navy; the U.S. Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
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India's unexpected kowtow to China was even more marked since Australia wanted to participate merely as an official observer and not as a major participant deploying warships to the exercise, which will be held in July.
The Australian government was reported as confirming the non-participation of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in Exercise Malabar, which will be held in waters off northern Australia.
"Australia has not been invited to join Exercise Malabar 2017," said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense.
This isn't necessarily true, said Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, Flag Officer Commanding of the Indian Navy's Eastern Fleet. Adm. Dasgupta is in Australia along with three warships of his command that will participate in Exercise Australia-India 2017 (AUSINDEX 17) to be held from June 17-19 with the RAN.
These warships are the INS Shivalik (F-47), lead-ship of India's first class of stealth multirole frigates; INS Kamorta (P-28), the first of four anti-submarine Kamorta-class stealth corvettes and the INS Jyoti (A-58), a Komandarm Fedko-class replenishment oiler.
"The proposal for Australia to participate in Malabar is still resting with the Indian Government," said Adm. Dasgupta.
"We are waiting to hear the outcome as much as you are. I think it is a decision which is pending at the Indian government level and we will abide by whatever decision comes out."
Adm. Dasgupta noted India's bilateral relations with Australia have an "interesting history" dating back to the late 18th century.
"While trade and commercial relationships grew quickly, the strategic dimension of the partnership developed at a somewhat sedate pace. And that dictated the tempo of defense relationships, as well," he said.
He said this tempo has accelerated since 2009 after the Australia-India Framework for Security Cooperation was formalized in 2014.
Adm. Dasgupta said the interaction between navies will allow the sharing of common concerns, generating trust and enhancing shipbuilding. He also said the Indian Navy will be happy to see RAN warships in its waters more often.
Exercise Malabar 2017 will take place in the Bay of Bengal. For the third straight year, warships of the JMSDF will join those of the Indian Navy and the U.S. Navy in the annual Exercise Malabar naval drill, which is aimed at curtailing China's expansion into the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific.
It's designed to enhance dynamic cooperation between Indian Navy, JMSDF and the U.S. Navy in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.