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As China flexes muscles in SCS, India to host Quad drill | India News

NEW DELHI: India will host the top-tier Malabar naval exercise with the other ‘Quad‘ countries – the US, Japan and Australia – in the Bay of Bengal this year, amid China’s continuing muscle-flexing in the South China Sea and expanding strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
The 28th edition of the Malabar exercise, with a major focus on advanced anti-submarine warfare, will be conducted on India’s eastern seaboard in Oct to further enhance military interoperability among the four countries, defence sources told TOI.
“Malabar will witness complex surface, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare drills, along with joint manoeuvres and advanced tactical exercises, to hone war-fighting skills. There is no plan to invite a fifth country for the exercise as of now,” a source said.
Malabar, which began as a bilateral exercise between India and the US in 1992 and now includes Japan and Australia as regular participants, was held off Sydney in August last year. Japan had hosted the exercise off Yokosuka in 2022.
Malabar this year will come shortly after India hosts its first-ever major multi-nation air combat exercise ‘Tarang Shakti’ in Aug-Sept. Apart from the Quad nations, air forces from the UK, France, Germany, UAE and Singapore will take part in the exercise.
An aggressive China figures high on the radar screens of most countries. With the world’s largest Navy with 355 warships and submarines, Beijing has been strong-arming its neighbours in the South China Sea, especially the Philippines, with expansionist claims while also building several new artificial islands.
Similar Chinese “grey zone” and salami-slicing tactics are evident along the land borders with India. There is also the major concern over China’s growing presence in the IOR, with Beijing hunting for additional logistical turnaround facilities on the east coast of Africa after establishing its first overseas base in Djibouti in August 2017.
“China is making moves in several countries like Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar and Comoros. Beijing has full access to Pakistan’s Gwadar and Karachi ports. Chinese warships, as part of anti-piracy escort forces, are also hanging around in the IOR for a longer time now,” a source said.
Then, of course, Chinese survey and research vessels as well as satellite and missile-tracking ships are almost always present in the IOR to map oceanographic and other data useful for navigation and submarine operations. “China is boosting its underwater domain awareness in the IOR in order to operate here with a much greater degree of efficiency,” he added.
“Malabar is all about the strong ties, shared values and the collective ability of the four nations to ensure a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, which China is trying to disrupt,” another source said.

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