There have been speculations of Australia joining the Malabar exercises which are due later this year. The participants of the Malabar exercises are as of now India, the U.S., and Japan, making it a tri-nation naval exercise. If Australia is added it would be a quad. China had long opposed to such a coalition of democracies in the Indo-Pacific Region and sees this Quadrilateral as an Asian-NATO which only contains China’s rise. The Indian side though rejoices as it is seen as a counter to Chinese presence in the eastern Indian ocean. Yet, decision-makers in India have reasons to be cautious as India is still negotiating to curb the standoff between India and China in its northern borders, an invitation to Australia might send wrong signals to China, which may create a new front in the India-China conflict. India also lacks the infrastructure to deter Chinese submarines in the Eastern Indian Ocean, and cooperations with U.S. and Japan without benefits of strategic technology transfers will not improve the Indian Navy’s deterrence potential in IOR. U.S. and Japan both think the Chinese threat to IOR is not as great as in the Pacific and in time of conflict would want India to assist them, while they could spare little if the threat is in IOR. Whereas Australia is the only partner who could assist India in securing the IOR. The PLAN has been cautious as there are no reports of Chinese vessels confronting to Indian interest at sea and challenging Indian sovereignty. The article thus highlights that only upgrading the Malabar trilateral to a Quadrilateral, would not stop the Chinese aggression in the IOR region. India also needs requisite combat and deterrence capability as a short term goal. Overall the article suggests of quadrilateral engagement with cost-benefit exercises and commensurate gains in the strategic operational realm.
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