The guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain fires exercise rounds from its MK-45 five-inch gun system during a high-speed maneuvering surface target exercise. Photo: US Navy / Ensign Jimmy Stokes

Have you ever been to a shopping mall, where some unfortunate parents had to deal with a spoiled little brat?

A screaming kid who could not be disciplined, and who was way out of line.

And there was nothing you or anyone could do.

Well, that was pretty much China’s response to Malabar 2020, an exercise in the Bay of Bengal that included navy ships, aircraft and personnel from Australia, India, Japan, and … of course, the mighty United States of America.

According to the Global Times, China’s official attack dog in these matters, the action was “an ill-intentioned attempt to corner China [and] is a hollow bluff … China will not be disrupted by India’s irrationality or US interference.”

So there we have it, India’s attempt to defend itself and its sovereignty is “irrational.” The spoiled child has spoken.

Hosted by the Indian Navy (IN), this year marks the 24th iteration of Malabar, which began in 1992 and once again features the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) as it rejoined the exercise, according to a press release from the US Navy.

In essence, Xi Jinping’s horrific foreign policy pissed off the Aussies (one of China’s major trade partners who refused to be bullied) to the point where they eagerly joined in on the fun.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain (rear) and the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat sail together during integrated operations. Photo: US Navy

The annual exercise advances the planning, integration and employment of warfare tactics among participating nations, and includes the lethal Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain

A hollow bluff? Not likely.

“India, Japan, and Australia form the core of our strategic partners across the Indo-Pacific,” said Captain Steven DeMoss, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 15. “It is fitting to see our navies operate in a high-end, tactically relevant exercise like Malabar. It is another opportunity to further strengthen our combined capabilities and enhance our partnerships.”   

This year’s exercise at sea includes a variety of high-end tactical training, including specific interactions that are designed to enhance interoperability among the RAN, Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and US maritime forces – in other words, things that should worry Beijing.

“Malabar provides an opportunity for like-minded navies, sharing a common vision of a more stable, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific, to operate and train alongside one another,” said Commander Ryan T Easterday, commanding officer, USS John S McCain.

“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.”

The commanding Officer of HMAS Ballarat, Commander Antony Pisani, said the multinational maritime exercise was an opportunity to build interoperability with Australia’s key regional partners India, Japan and the United States.

“This is an opportunity for Ballarat to participate in a high-end maritime exercise with the four participating navies, increasing mutual understanding and enhancing our combined air and maritime domain awareness,” Commander Pisani said.

Chief Boatswain’s Mate Juan Vigil sends off an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat as it takes off from the flight deck of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain during flight operations. Photo: US Navy

“HMAS Ballarat is the first Royal Australian Navy ship to participate in Exercise Malabar since 2007 and we are looking forward to the opportunity to exercise with our partners and contribute to the security, stability and prosperity of the region.”

Besides USS John S McCain, participants include Indian Navy Ships Shakti, Ranvijay and Shivalik, and submarine Sindhuraj, with various aircraft from the Indian Navy, HMAS Ballarat from the RAN, and JS Ōnami from the JMSDF.

“We, the JMSDF, have been striving to strengthen partnership among the navies of friendly nations through maritime exercises such as Malabar to achieve a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” said Commander Ishidera Takahiko, commanding officer, JS Onami.

“This year, it is our great pleasure that we have the opportunity to conduct the exercise with the Royal Australian Navy, in addition to the United States Navy and the Indian Navy. Despite the global Covid-19 spread, I believe Malabar 2020 will make our ties with these navies much stronger.”

Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that Australia’s participation makes this year’s Malabar exercises bigger than last year’s, but “China will not be intimidated by an ordinary annual military exercise.” 

An “ordinary” military alliance that keeps growing, by the way.

Sources: US Navy, Global Times