India hosts key naval exercise with eye on China

India, Australia, Japan and the United States started a strategic navy drill Tuesday in the Bay of Bengal, with all four countries keeping a wary eye on China's growing military power.

The exercises -- with anti-submarine and anti-aircraft drills -- went ahead as India is embroiled in a deadly border showdown with China and has sought closer military ties with other countries.

The four nations make up the so-called Quad group (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), established in 2007 to counter growing Chinese influence.

Australia -- which also has problematic relations with China -- is taking part in the Malabar exercises for the first time in more than a decade, 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.

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 United States 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.

The exercises will be held in two stages, with more war games to be held in the Arabian Sea later this month.

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