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‘Quad should be given space to find its own feet’

Quad is a diplomatic exercise and one of confidence building and should be given the space to find its own footing, Australian diplomatic sources said on Monday while talking of developments in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Quad should be given the space to find its own feet. If we try to push too much and too fast, we risk undoing and diminishing the sort of relationships that we are building through the Quad right now,” a diplomatic source said.

The quadrilateral grouping consisting of India, Australia, Japan and the US was revived in 2017 but the grouping has so far shied away from adding a military aspect to it. China sees the Quad as an attempt to contain it.

Talking of India’s reluctance to include Australia in Malabar trilateral naval exercises between India, Japan and the US despite the fast evolving India-Australia defence cooperation, the source observed that the issue with Malabar is that it “distracts everyone’s attention from everything else that’s happening.” India has maintained that it was still “too early” to discuss “militarising” the Quad.

Stressing on the importance Australia attaches to relations with India, the source said there are “six countries which are pivotal to Australia’s country and India is one of them.” India is mentioned in the Australian white paper of 2017.

Next month, the navies of India and Australia will take part in the third edition of the bilateral exercise AUSINDEX to be held off Visakhapatnam coast. “The focus is anti-submarine warfare drills,” another diplomatic source said. For this both sides are fielding submarines and long range patrol aircraft.

“The bilateral exercise will be held from April 2-16,” the source said, adding that the Final Planning Conference (FPC) to finalise the modalities was held last Saturday.

Australia is sending in its largest naval contingent ever to India for the exercise along with over 1,000 personnel. This includes the Landing Helicopter Dock HMAS Canberra, two frigates, one tanker, one submarine and a P-8A long range surveillance aircraft along with helicopters, one C-130 and one C-17 transport aircraft.

Indian Navy is deploying five ships including a destroyer and stealth frigate, one Kilo class submarine, a P-8I patrol aircraft, one Dornier aircraft, shore based Hawk jets and integral helicopters on board ships, a navy source said.

The Australian naval deployment for the exercise is part of a larger deployment to the region, visiting several countries, under Operation Indo-Pacific endeavour.

In the backdrop of increased military to military cooperation, diplomatic sources stressed on the need for a logistics agreement between the two countries. Australia has submitted a draft agreement several years back but India is yet to respond to it.

Source: thehindu.com

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