India open to including Australia in Malabar naval exercise

India is prepared to expand the Malabar trilateral naval exercise involving India, the U.S. and Japan, to also include Australia, defence officials told The Hindu. While a decision on whether to extend the invitation is expected “soon”, the officials said, it was unlikely to be announced during Thursday’s “virtual summit” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

Cooperation in the ‘Indo-Pacific’ and the strengthening of defence ties would be at the top of the agenda for the talks, and India and Australia are expected to conclude the long pending Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) as part of measures to elevate the strategic partnership.

“We have a shared approach to a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” said a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “This has led to a convergence of mutual interest in many areas,” the official said, stressing that as “two democratic nations”, the two countries had a better understanding of regional and global issues.

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