New Delhi: US Senator David Perdue along with a bipartisan group of senators wrote a letter to Ambassador of India to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu to express their support of India’s decision to formally invite Australia to participate in the annual Malabar exercise.
The letter was signed by US Senators Marsha Blackburn, Chris Coons, John Cornyn, Kevin Cramer, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, James Lankford, Kelly Loeffler, Martha McSally, Marco Rubio, Dan Sullivan, Thom Tillis and Mark Warner.
The naval exercise was started in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between the Indian Navy and the US Navy, after which Japan joined in 2015.
Talks had been on for over a decade to include Australia in the exercise, and the decision was taken in 2019, but India was not keen to formally announce it, due to escalating tensions China, which has had close ties with Australia. This year, the Malabar exercise will take place in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
“From an operational perspective, the addition of such a uniquely capable and stalwart partner, like Australia, to this naval exercise is invaluable, providing increased interoperability, strengthening threat assessment abilities and enhancing the maritime roles and missions of the four naval powers,” wrote the senators.
“However, of equal importance is the symbolic nature of Australia’s inclusion in Malabar, marking the first time that the United States, India, Japan and Australia will engage collectively at the military level since the formation of the Quad and the Quad-plus-Singapore naval exercises held in September 2007,” they added.
In the letter, the senators also expressed concern over China’s rising “military and economic assertiveness” and said the strengthening of the Quad has become increasingly important in this situation. “As the world addresses the fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, China has opportunistically looked to expand its military footprint across the IndoPacific. From the South China Sea to the Himalayas, Beijing continues to use methods of intimidation and territorial aggression to test the resolve of regional actors,” they wrote.
“The pandemic has also exacerbated concerns about China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and resulting debt-trap diplomacy. A free and open Indo-Pacific must come with sustainable investment in the region and infrastructure that is physically secure, financially viable and socially responsible,” the senators said.