Amid border tensions between India and China in Ladakh, India has planned to invite Australia to join the annual Malabar naval exercise that has so far included just Japan and the U.S.
Reports suggest that the invitation is being put on exercise in a move that could risk China’s ire.
According to senior officials of India quoted by a Delhi based newspaper The Print, the decision to include Australia in the drills comes as Beijing and New Delhi are caught up in their worst border tensions in four decades.
The exercise will bring together the navies of India, Japan, Australia and the U.S. in the Bay of Bengal at the end of the year, the officials said. The report added that it is first time that all the members of the regional grouping known as the Quad will be engaged at a military level.
However, China has been uncomfortable with the informal coalition of four democracies, which was first formed in 2004 to help nations in the Indo-Pacific after the tsunami and revived in 2017, the report said.
Indian and Chinese soldiers continue to be eyeball to eyeball at the Line of Actual Control at Galwan Valley, Hot Springs, Depsang Plains and Pangong Tso in Ladakh and at Naku La in North Sikkim.
And now China has reportedly started creating trouble for Indian patrols in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) area between patrolling points 10 and 13 and the Demchok region in eastern Ladakh.
The armies of India and China are locked in a tense standoff in eastern Ladakh, where China has reportedly occupied 60 sq. kilometres of territory claimed by India.
A Chinese diplomat reacting to the standoff in Ladakh has said that the move is linked to the Indian government’s unilateral decision to scrap Article 370 in August last year.
The move changed the laws that prohibited Indians from buying land in Kashmir, and made the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir defunct, triggering fears of demographic change in the Muslim majority region of Kashmir.
When India scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5 last year, the Chinese foreign ministry had issued two statements criticising the development, including one that focused on the splitting of the state into union territories.
This statement, while urging India to be “cautious” on the border issue and to avoid “actions that further complicate the border issue”, said: “China has always opposed India’s inclusion of Chinese territory in India’s administrative jurisdiction in the western part of the Sino-Indian border.” This was a reference to the area in Ladakh that New Delhi claims but is controlled by Beijing.
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