A Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece has termed the Malabar naval drill as “an ill-intentioned attempt to corner China”. The four-nation exercise involving aircraft carriers, submarines and fighters concluded on Friday.
This was the first time that four big democratic nations — the US, Japan, Australia and India — termed as Quad got together for the exercise. Indian experts and personnel in uniform see the Chinese opposition to such exercise as an excuse to justify its massive military build-up.
The Global Times, the communist party mouthpiece, said: “Such an ill-intentioned attempt to corner China is a hollow bluff, and China will not be disrupted by India’s irrationality or US interference.”
A senior serving Indian Navy officer said China is playing the victim card to rationalise its Indo-Pacific policy and military build-up.
“China would be happy only when either other countries stop raising their voice against its belligerence in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Taiwan Strait or countries keep their eyes off its massive military build-up,” he said.
The Chinese have adopted an aggressive approach with Japan on its claim of the Senkaku islands, threatened Australia with a trade war and PLA soldiers attempted to unilaterally alter the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
All this has only deepened the distrust among the affected nations, says defence analyst Commodore (retd) Anil Jai Singh.
“The speed with which China is adding military vessels including aircraft carriers, submarines and merchant vessels, should catch everyone’s attention. It has become a maritime power to extend its influence and the PLA Navy is one important part of it,” said Commodore Singh.
The Indian approach has been towards “a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific as well as a rules-based international order”, as spelt out by Navy spokesperson Cdr Vivek Madhwal after the conclusion of the Malabar Exercise.
In a clear message for China to realise the strategic autonomy that India practices, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday that New Delhi’s decisions are solely aimed at protecting its interests.
Other global powers such as France and Germany have also talked about their interest in the Indo-Pacific region to keep it free for open navigation.