The power-packed second phase of the top-notch Malabar naval exercise, with two aircraft carriers, fighter jets and ten other warships from India, the US, Japan and Australia, came to an end in the Arabian Sea on Friday. With an eye firmly on an expansionist and aggressive China, the 24th edition of the Malabar exercise underlined the “commitment” of the participating “Quad” countries to “support a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific as well as a rules-based international order”, said officials. The second phase of the Malabar exercise began on Tuesday in the Northern Arabian Sea with the participation of Indian, US, Australian and Japanese warships carrying out ‘Malabar-2020’ wargames. In the ongoing Malabar exercise in the Indian Ocean region, MiG-29Ks of Indian Navy and F-18s of US Navy carried out simulated attacks on the surface force during the culmination of naval exercise on Friday. The phase 2 witnessed simulated attacks and coordinated firing carried out on a surface target by MiG-9Ks of Indian Navy. The two carriers, along with other warships and aircraft of the participating navies, engaged in high-intensity naval operations including cross-deck flying operations and advanced air defence exercises. India deployed its solitary carrier, the 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya with its MiG-29K fighter jets, while US fielded its mammoth over 100,000-tonne nuclear-powered USS Nimitz with its F/A-18 fighters and E-2C Hawkeye early-warning aircraft for the Phase-II of Malabar. “In addition to the ‘dual carrier’ operations, advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings were also undertaken during both phases of Malabar, demonstrating the synergy, coordination and interoperability between the four friendly navies,” said Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal. Moreover, coordinated firing on surface target was undertaken during the Phase-2 of the Malabar-2020 exercise. The Phase-I of Malabar was held in the first week of November in the Bay of Bengal, with the four “Quad” countries coming together after a gap of 13 years in a strategic show of intent to China. India’s military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh is into its seventh month now. Though military and diplomatic talks are underway between the two countries to defuse the troop standoff, the exact modalities and sequencing of the proposed disengagement are yet to be finalised.