CAA’s Articulate – The confluence of four powers and two seas.


  • Parallel exercises in Indo-Pacific including a trilateral exercise­ between the U.S., Australia and Japan in the Philippines Sea, and an Indo-U.S. naval exercise in the Indian Ocean has fuelled speculation that Quadrilateral (Quad) exercises will be launched soon between all four navies.

More on the news:

  • Indian government expected to take a decision on whether to include Australia in the Malabar exercises with Japan and the U.S. at a Defence Ministry meeting.
  • The decision, if taken, could bring all Quad countries together as part of the annual war games.
  • Japan and the U.S. have also been keen on Australia’s inclusion for some time now and have been pushing India to consider it.


  • Shift from earlier stance:
    • After years of reluctance by India for inclusion of Australia, it was finally open to the inclusion of the country in the Malabar as an observer.
    • The inclusion of Australia in the Malabar exercises would surely mark a major shift for India’s Indo-Pacific plans.
  • Signal to China:
    • The move of expansion of Malabar exercise comes in the midst of the ongoing stand-off with China on the border, the biggest crisis along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in over five decades.
    • And Australia’s inclusion would be surely seen as a possible first step towards the militarization of the Quad coalition, which has been opposed by China in the past.
  • Repeated requests by Australia
    • Since April 2017 Australia has made repeated requests to join the exercises.
    • However, India did not include Australia in the exercises in 2018 and 2019, on the other hand, the bilateral AUSINDEX naval exercise expanded in scope and complexity.
    • Recently, Australian PM also announced Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update, which has been termed a “significant pivot”
      • It is a A$270 billion 10-year defence plan which includes, for the first time, land, sea and air-based long-range and hypersonic strike missiles for Australia.

Way ahead for India

  • India has strengthened its naval ties with each of the other Quad countries, and there have been more interactions, formal and informal at the official, political and military levels.
  • However, in 2018, at the Shangri­ La Dialogue, Indian PM had said that India sees the Indo­-Pacific as a“geographical concept”, not a “strategy or a club of limited members”.
  • A complicated decision:
    • India needs to realise that unlike the U.S., Japan and Australia, which are tied by military alliances, India is a member of other strategic forums,
      • such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with China, Russia and Central Asia, BRICS and RIC, which appear to be at cross purposes with a Quad alliance.
    • By involving in quad militarisation India would also be drawn into choosing its corner in the new Cold War that is developing between the U.S. and China.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD)

  • It is an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia and India.
  • It is also known as the Quad.
  • It has a shared objective of ensuring a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
  • The idea of grouping was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007.

History of Quad grouping

  • Formation of Quad :
    • The Quad was originally born out of the crisis that followed the Tsunami in December 2004.
    • India’s rescue mission in the Indian Ocean was coordinated with the three other naval powers engaged in similar efforts — U.S., Australia and Japan.
  • The Quad effort was later handed over to the UN, but the idea of the Indo­Pacific as a larger maritime strategic community had been planted in the minds of all four nations.
  • Early phase
    • In 2007, when the annual India – ­U.S. ‘Malabar’ exercises were held in the Indian and Pacific oceans, first off Okinawa and a few months later, off Visakhapatnam, they included Japan, Australia and Singapore
    • China’s stance:
      • China has termed it as an attempt to build “an Asian NATO”
      • China’s Navy had not at the time undergone its massive modernisation drive towards a blue water navy.
    • However the U.S., which was trying to gain China’s support in the six party talks on North Korea, dampened enthusiasm for a Quad Foreign Ministers’ meeting
  • Quad 2.0
    • In 2017, again the Quad returned after a strained relationship with China of these four countries, now named Quad 2.0.
    • All four countries met in Manila for the ‘India-­Australia­-Japan-U.S.’ dialogue.
    • Quad grouping has met biannually since then, discussing “connectivity, sustainable development, counter­terrorism, non­proliferation and maritime and cyber security, with a view to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter­connected Indo-Pacific region”.
  • An alternative to China’s BRI?
    • The emphasis on connectivity has seen the Quad challenge China in another sphere.
    • The counter has not yet made much headway, but each of the Quad countries is coordinating their responses on infrastructure projects in their spheres of influence. For example
      • India and Australian efforts in the Pacific islands, India-­U.S. coordination in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, and India­-Japan joint efforts to develop projects in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Malabar Exercise

  • It is an annual trilateral naval exercise between the navies of India, Japan, and the USA which is held alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
  • Malabar had begun as a bilateral naval exercise between India and the U.S. in 1992, and was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
  • Other bilateral exercises between India and Australia are Pitch Black and AUSINDEX.