Influential US Senators welcome India inviting Australia to Malabar exercise

Erie (US), Oct 21: A bipartisan group of influential American Senators on Tuesday welcomed India’s decision to invite Australia for the annual Malabar naval exercise involving Japan and the United States.
In a significant move that comes amid a Sino-India border row, India on Monday announced Australia’s participation in the upcoming Malabar exercise along with the US and Japan, effectively making it the first military-level engagement between the four-member nation grouping — the Quad.
“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,” the senators in a letter to India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu.
Led by Republican Senator David Perdue, a member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the letter among others was signed by 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.
“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,” the letter said.
“China has opportunistically looked to expand its military footprint across the Indo-Pacific. 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,” it said.
“In response to these malign actions, the US has signalled its increased commitment to the region with the newly proposed Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which will complement the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) to provide a more robust military presence. However, without coordinated efforts among committed and capable partners, solitary actions will not sufficiently address these ever-evolving security challenges,” the Senators wrote in the letter to Sandhu.
Almost three decades ago, the Malabar exercise acted as a launching pad for increased US-Indian relations, they said.
“We hope that Japan’s inclusion in the exercise, and now Australia’s, will have a similar effect, strengthening cooperation among the Quad as we collectively defend our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the Senators said.
The letter also expresses support for increased coordination among Quad members on non-security issues like humanitarian assistance, vaccine development, and infrastructure investment in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Indo-Pacific is a biogeographic region, comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam claim parts of it.
“The Quad additionally provides an existing institutional framework for increased quadrilateral cooperation on non-security issues. As you know, it was the joint response to the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, the deadliest natural disaster in modern history that led to the first iteration of the Quad,” the letter written to Sandhu read.
“As such, humanitarian aid and disaster relief are natural areas where Quad members can, and should, expand collaborative efforts, especially given the ongoing pandemic.
“It is critical that the US and India build upon recent discussions among Quad members, as well as New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam, to coordinate efforts to contain the spread of the virus and develop an effective vaccine,” the Senators said in the letter. (PTI)