Quadrilateral exercise could be full steam ahead

(L-R) HMCS Ottawa, HMAS Perth, USS Chafee and Lake Erie sail together ahead of a surface to air missile exercise (SAMEX) off the coast of Hawaii during RIMPAC 12.Image via Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

Australia could be one step closer to participating in the Malabar naval exercise between India, US and Japan.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told journalists in Queensland that discussions with India are continuing to gain traction.

"The discussions that we're having are progressing very well. As you know, we participated in those exercises in the past and we are always looking forward to working with our partners in the region in exercises of that kind," the Prime Minister said.

Talks to participate in the exercise were reignited in December last year.

Frances Adamson, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, spoke at a media table while visiting India for the inaugural 2+2 Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries Dialogue between India and Australia, and said Australia is more than willing to join the exercise if invited by the other three participants.

"Australia, of course, stands very willing to join Malabar should we be invited to do so," Adamson said.

"But that invitation could only come from the other three."

The naval exercise was originally started by India and the US, with Japan becoming a permanent third member in 2015. Australia took part in the 2007 exercise but left after concerns were expressed by Beijing.

Australia's interest in the exercise has continued to increase as the strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific region becomes more prominent. However, India rejected Australia's request to join last year.

"Australia has regularly discussed the matter of the Royal Australian Navy's involvement in Exercise Malabar with India since 2015," a Defence spokesperson told the ABC in June.

Defence Minister Marise Payne also discussed Australia's interest in joining the naval exercise during a visit to Tokyo in April 2017.

"Australia is very interested in a quadrilateral engagement with India, Japan and the United States," she said.

"What form that may take is a matter of discussion between our various countries."

Quadrilateral exercise could be full steam ahead
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