A day after New Delhi said that the Quadrilateral grouping of US, Japan, India and Australia are sending their warships for the Malabar Exercise next month, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E Biegun on Tuesday said that Quad should be “more regularised”, and at some point “formalised” with the passage of time.
China gave a measured response, stating that it has “noticed” the development and believes that military cooperation between countries “should be conducive to regional peace and stability”, while Japan welcomed the development.
Biegun, who did a telephonic briefing with journalists from India and Bangladesh on Tuesday, said, “I will say that it is our view that in the passage of time, the Quad should become more regularized and at some point formalized as well as we really begin to understand what the parameters of this cooperation are and how we can regularize it.”
In the discussions and practices in the security sphere, he called for a “continuation and regularisation of the Quad, with an eventual goal of how it can be best formalised.” Biegun also welcomed cooperation with any country in the Indo-Pacific, which is committed to defend “free and open Indo Pacific that guarantees sovereignty and prosperity for its members”.
Earlier in the day, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, responding to questions, said in Tokyo, “If this is to be realised, it would be welcomed by the Japanese government.”
The next step
With Quad countries going for a military exercise within a month of the Foreign Ministers' meeting, next steps are already being planned. So Washington has put the idea of formalising it on the table. All eyes will now be on other Quad countries, including India, on whether to give it some sort of a permanent structure. China's response will be watched on this front, as the group ponders on ways to regularise the grouping.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “We noticed this development. China believes that military cooperation between countries should be conducive to regional peace and stability.”
Welcoming the decision on Twitter, the US Navy’s Chief of Information tweeted “Seapower x 4” with the flags of India, the US, Japan and Australia. The US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, part of the US Indo-Pacific Command, tweeted, “Looking forward to exercise #Malabar in November.”
Amid the Sino-Indian military standoff along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and rising tensions in the South China Sea, India on Monday announced that Australia will be part of the Malabar Exercise in November, making it the first military exercise between all countries that make the Quadrilateral grouping, better known as Quad.
The Defence Ministry had said: “As 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. This year, the exercise has been planned on a ‘non-contact-at sea’ format. The exercise will strengthen the coordination between the Navies of the participating countries.
“The participants…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.”
Responding to this announcement, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said, “Following an invitation from India, Australia will participate in Exercise Malabar 2020. The exercise will bring together four key regional defence partners: India, the United States, Japan and Australia in November 2020.”
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