Australia has agreed to participate in a naval exercise called Exercise Malabar 2020 following an invitation from India.

The annual exercise, which usually involves India, the US and Japan, is set to be held next month.

The move comes amid growing partnership between the four countries that led to the formation of Quad, an informal strategic coalition, to counter China’s growing influence.

Confirming the participation, Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said: “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.

“Exercise Malabar also showcases the deep trust between four major Indo-Pacific democracies and their shared will to work together on common security interests.”

This year, the exercise is planned on a ‘non-contact – at sea’ format and will seek to bolster coordination between the naval forces of the four countries.

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It will be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

India’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement: “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 Malabar Naval exercises commenced in 1992 as a bilateral drill between the Indian Navy and the US Navy. Japan joined the exercise in 2015.

Australia last participated in the exercise in 2007, which, according to Reuters, drew criticism from China at the time.

The exercise was held off the Japanese coast last year.