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story.lead_photo.caption Aircraft carriers and warships participate in the second phase of Malabar naval exercise, a joint exercise comprising of India, US, Japan and Australia, in the Northern Arabian Sea on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. The four countries form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad. (Indian Navy via AP)

NEW DELHI (AP) — The navies of India, the United States, Australia and Japan held exercises Tuesday in the Northern Arabian Sea in the second phase of a naval drill seen as part of a regional initiative to counter China's growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.

The Malabar naval exercise "highlights enhanced convergence of views amongst the four vibrant democracies on maritime issues," India's Defense Ministry said.

This is the second time the four countries — an informal grouping known as the Quad — have participated in a combined military exercise of this size. The first phase of the Malabar drill took place Nov. 3-6 in the Bay of Bengal.

This phase consists of operations centered on the Indian navy's Vikramaditya carrier battle group and the U.S. Navy's Nimitz carrier strike group, the ministry said.

The Australian frigate Ballarat, Japan's Murasame destroyer, and submarines and aircraft are also participating in the exercise.

India has been locked for months in a military standoff with China along their disputed border. It hopes the exercise will act as a deterrent against Beijing, analysts said.

The Malabar exercise started in 1992 as a bilateral drill between the Indian and U.S. navies. Japan joined in 2015. This year, the Australian navy is participating for the first time since 2007.

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