The inclusion of Australia in the Malabar Exercise – trilateral naval exercises between India, the U.S. and Japan, a senior U.S. State Department official told reporters on a briefing call on Wednesday. The official’s remarks also included India-U.S. interactions at multilateral forums, Amnesty International India halting its activities and the India-China border standoff.
Regarding the October ministerial-level meeting of the “Quad”- India, Australia, the U.S. and Japan – the countries will discuss a comprehensive set of issues, but the actual agenda is going to be kept “close-hold” [ a security classification] among the countries, the official said, so there can be a more “frank and open” discussion of those issues.
The official, who called the Quad partnership “increasingly strong,” said that the agenda would cover defence, economic areas and, especially, COVID-19.
India has been reluctant to include Australia in the Malabar naval exercises which include three of the four Quad members. The militarisation of the Quad could be viewed by China as a strategy to contain it, not something India has wanted to do.
The official said that discussions were still on-going on whether or not Australia would join the other three countries in the exercises, to be held this year in the Bay of Bengal.
The agenda for the U.S.-India October 2+2 ministerial dialogue (defence and foreign affairs ministers of both countries) is currently being worked out and is expected to be “comprehensive, wide-ranging and strategic,” the official said. It will include defence topics, diplomatic cooperation, cooperation at multilateral forums, economic cooperation, space and technology and people to people cooperation, as per the official.
Providing an overview of the ‘U.S. – India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership’ (the official framework for the relationship between the two countries), the official called the relationship, “one of the most important partnerships in the world.”
“Perhaps the clearest example of how the U.S.- India partnership has benefitted the world is in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the official said.