The India-hosted exercise will be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea later this year

Australia will participate in the Naval Exercise Malabar 2020 to be held later this year. This will bring all members of the Quad formation - India, US, Japan, and Australia - together for a maritime engagement.

Announcing Australia’s participation on Monday, the Ministry of Defence said the exercise will be held in the Bay of Bengal as well as the Arabian Sea.

The Malabar Naval Exercises began in 1992 as a bilateral Indian Navy-US Navy exercise. Australia had last participated in 2007 while Japan joined in 2015.

"As India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and in the light of increased defence cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy," the ministry said in a statement.

Australia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence also released a joint statement saying this “marked a milestone opportunity for the Australian Defence Force”.

“High-end military exercises like MALABAR are key to enhancing Australia's maritime capabilities, building interoperability with our close partners, and demonstrating our collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, the announcement was another important step in Australia's deepening relationship with India.

“This builds on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, to which Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Modi agreed on 4 June 2020, and which I progressed with my counterpart, Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar, this month when we met in Tokyo,” she said.

This annual exercise was conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea in 2018 and off the coast of Japan in 2019.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malabar 2020 has been planned as a '‘non-contact - at sea’ format. "The exercise will strengthen the coordination between the Navies of the participating countries," India’s Ministry of Defence noted.

According to the ministry, the participants of Exercise Malabar 2020 are engaging to enhance safety and security in the maritime domain. The official statement reiterated that the participating nations “collectively support free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and remain committed to a rules based international order”.

The Indian Navy regularly engages with the navies of other countries to develop interoperability and joint operational skills through a range of maritime exercises and operations.

The three-day India-Sri Lanka annual maritime exercise SLINEX began on Monday. This is the eighth edition of the bilateral exercise between the two countries and is being conducted in the Bay of Bengal.

This was preceded by the second edition of the Indian Navy (IN) – Bangladesh Navy (BN) Bilateral Exercise Bongosagar in the Northern Bay of Bengal on October 3.

The Indian Navy had earlier participated in Passage Exercises or PASSEX with the navies of the United States as well as Russia.