China Forces Change in India, Australia Relationship

Australia’s strategy on engaging India has long revolved around the so-called “three Cs:” cricket, curry, and the Commonwealth.

In light of the changing status of bilateral relations in 2020, let’s add a couple more Cs to the list: China, and containment of.

On Friday, it emerged that India is very likely to invite Australia to join its Malabar naval exercises, a sign that shared national-security concerns over China’s perceived expansionism in the region is bringing the two countries closer together.

The Malabar naval exercises — also referred to as Exercise Malabar — are trilateral war games involving the United States, Japan, and India which have been running annually since 1992 (with Tokyo involved since 2015). Taking place mostly in the Bay of Bengal — although at times elsewhere in Indo-Pacific waters — Australia has long sought to be included. An invitation from India would signpost that the relationship is moving to a new level, and vitally, would represent a real coup for Australian diplomacy.

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