New Delhi, Oct 19 (IANS): In a message to China on getting a wider footprint in the Indo-Pacific region, India invited Australia to take part in an annual naval drill -- Malabar Exercise -- in the Indian Ocean region along with the US and Japan to which Australia has agreed.
The Indo-Pacific region is seen from the west coast of India to the US.
It is for the first time that all the 'Quad' countries - an informal security forum comprising India, the US, Japan and Australia - will be part of Malabar exercise scheduled next month.
Confirming the Australian Navy's participation in the Malabar series, the Indian Defence Ministry in a statement on Monday said: "India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and in the light of increased defence cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy."
The Malabar series of naval exercises started in 1992 as a bilateral India-US naval exercise. Japan joined it in 2015.
This annual exercise has been conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippines Sea in 2018, off the coast of Japan in 2019 and is expected to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea later this year.
This year, the exercise has been planned in a 'non-contact-at sea' format. The exercise will strengthen the coordination between the navies of the participating countries.
The participants in the exercise are engaging to enhance safety and security in the maritime domain.
"They collectively support free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and remain committed to a rules based international order," the ministry said.
Earlier this year, the Indian Navy had conducted exercises with Russia and the 'Quad' countries.
The Indian Navy had carried out a three-day bilateral maritime exercise with Japan in the north Arabian Sea from September 26, 2020 to September 28. It was the fourth edition of the India-Japan Maritime bilateral exercise JIMEX, which is conducted biennially.
The Australian Navy and the Indian Navy carried out a passage exercise in the East Indian Ocean Region on September 23 and 24. The exercise involved the participation of HMAS Hobart from the Australian side and Indian naval ships Sahyadri and Karmuk. In addition, an Indian maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters from both sides carried out coordinated exercises.
A bilateral maritime exercise took place between the Indian and Russian navies in the Bay of Bengal on September 4 and 5. The exercise is known as 'Indra Navy' and was the 11th edition.
Indian Navy units undertook Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with units of the US Nimitz Carrier Strike Group as they transited through the Indian Ocean region on July 20.