Naval forces of India, Australia, Japan and the US come together for the military exercise in the Bay of Bengal.

India, Australia, Japan and the United States have started a joint military exercise in the Bay of Bengal, with all four keeping a wary eye on China’s growing military power.

Naval ships, aircraft and personnel came together on Tuesday in the so-called Malabar exercise.

The Malabar series started in 1992 as a bilateral India-US naval exercise.

Japan joined in 2015, while Australia is participating for the first time in more than 10 years – a sign of the growing importance of the group.

“Exercise Malabar is an important opportunity to work in concert with like-minded nations to support a secure, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” Australia’s Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said in a statement.

India is currently embroiled in a violent border showdown with China and has sought closer military ties with other countries.

The border standoff began in May and escalated in June to the deadliest violence between the two sides in decades – a clash between soldiers using clubs, stones and their fists.

Both sides have held several rounds of talks by military, diplomatic and political officials, including negotiations between their foreign ministers and defence ministers in Moscow in September.

The decision to add Australia makes the current iteration of Malabar the first exercise to include all members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the Quad.

The group was established in 2007 to counter growing Chinese influence.

The US has sent the guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain, which re-entered service this year, three years after a collision in which 10 sailors were killed.

“A collaborative approach toward regional security and stability is important now more than ever, to deter all who challenge a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Ryan Easterday, commanding officer of USS John S McCain.

The drill “will showcase the high-levels of synergy and coordination between the friendly navies, which is based on their shared values”, the Indian Navy said.

The naval exercise is scheduled in two phases.

The first takes place off the southeastern port city of Visakhapatnam from November 3 to 6.

The second phase is due to be conducted in the Arabian Sea in mid-November.

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