All four members of the Quad alliance - India, the US, Japan, and Australia - will participate

The Malabar Naval Exercise 2020 to be held in two phases is set to begin on November 3 in the Bay of Bengal after which it will move to the Arabian Sea.

The first phase of the Malabar Exercise will commence from Visakhapatnam in the Bay of Bengal and last for four days, till November 6, a LiveMint report said quoting a person familiar with the matter. The second phase of the naval exercise will be held in the Arabian Sea in mid-November.

Australia will return to the Malabar Exercise after 13 years - it had last participated in 2007. The Malabar Naval Exercises began in 1992 as a bilateral Indian Navy-US Navy exercise, Japan joined in 2015. This exercise was conducted off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea in 2018 and off the coast of Japan in 2019.

The naval exercise comes at a time when all the four countries are trying to counter China's attempts to increase its influence in the Indo-Pacific region. It also comes in the backdrop of the ongoing standoff between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.

Announcing Australia's participation in the exercise, which is being conducted as a 'non-contact at-sea only' drill in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Defence had said it would "strengthen the coordination between the Navies of the participating countries".

The participants of Exercise Malabar 2020 are engaging to enhance safety and security in the maritime domain. "They collectively support free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and remain committed to a rules based international order," the ministry said.

The Indian Navy units participating in the exercise are likely to include destroyer Ranvijay, frigate Shivalik, OffShore Patrol Vessel Sukanya, Fleet Support Ship Shakti and submarine Sindhuraj.

US Navy Ship USS John S McCain (Guided-missile destroyer), Royal Australian Navy Ship HMAS Ballarat (long range frigate) with integral MH-60 helicopter, and Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force Ship JS Onami (Destroyer) with integral SH-60 helicopter will also participate in the exercise.

The Australian Department of Defence tweeted a video of the USS McCain and HMAS Ballarat setting course for Exercise Malabar. "Looking forward to meeting our Indian and Japanese partners," it said.

While confirming the country's participation, Australia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence had released a joint statement on October 19, 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 had said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne had described the announcement of the country's participation as 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.