Australia ready for exercise with more than one nation

New Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS) Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said on Wednesday his country was ready to participate with other nations in multilateral defence exercises – and that walking out after China’s demarche following the 2007 Malabar exercise was a mistake.

In 2007, the Exercise Malabar was held in the Bay of Bengal with 25 vessels from India, the US, Japan, Australia and Singapore.

This made China uneasy, and while it did not comment on the drill itself, it sent a demarche to India, the US, Japan and Australia seeking details about their four-nation meeting, termed Quadrilateral Initiative.

India and Australia quickly assured Beijing that security and defence issues did not form part of the meeting’s agenda.

India’s then defence minister A.K. Antony had also taken a stand that Indian forces will not participate in any exercise that conveys a sense of military alliance with the US against a third country.

Australia had since kept away from such exercise.

Asked about the withdrawal, Andrews said: “It was a mistake… there was a different government then, it is not the outlook of the current government.”

“If we are invited by India in future, the clear stand will be to accept the invitation,” he said.

India and Australia will hold bi-lateral naval exercise Ausindex later this month.

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