India and Australia plan to further crank up their bilateral defence ties with more combat exercises, strengthening cooperation on maritime security and intelligence-sharing, even as they also work together with the US and Japan in the ‘Quad’ strategic grouping in face of China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh will meet his Australian counterpart Peter Dutton on Friday in New Delhi to discuss specific measures to further expand the bilateral defence cooperation. This will be followed by the two defence ministers joining foreign minister S Jaishankar and his counterpart Marise Payne for the first ‘two-plus-two’ ministerial dialogue between the two countries on Saturday, reports The Times of India.
“Defence Ties with Australia have gained a lot of momentum after the relationship was upgraded to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ in June 2020. Several new steps and exchanges are being discussed,” an official said on Monday.
With Australia now becoming a permanent member of the quadrilateral ‘Malabar’ naval exercise, the 25th edition of which was conducted off Gaum in the western Pacific late last month, Dutton is very keen on India joining his country’s largest biennial wargames called ‘Talisman Sabre’ in 2023, as was earlier reported by TOI. Australia believes it will further consolidate the Quad, which has declared its firm intent to deter any “coercion” in the Indo-Pacific, since the exercise already features the US and Japan as well as other countries like the UK, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand.
On Monday, India and Australia also kicked off the 4th edition of their naval drills ‘Ausindex’ off Darwin. While India has deployed guided-missile frigate INS Shivalik and anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kadmatt for the exercise, Australia is taking part with frigate HMAS Warramunga and submarine HMAS Rankin as well as F-18A fighter jets and P-8A maritime patrol aircraft.
“Australia and India are comprehensive strategic partners. We share a commitment to increasing the regularity and complexity of our military training so we can be confident in our ability to work effectively to respond to the maritime security needs in our region,” said Australian fleet commander Rear Admiral Mark Hammond.
“Each time our nations come together, we develop further maritime interoperability by exercising more involved warfare serials demonstrating our strong commitment to an open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” he added.
Indian Eastern Fleet commander Rear Admiral Tarun Sobti, in turn, said, “This exercise will further strengthen the partnership and interoperability with the Australian navy in the Indo-Pacific. We’re looking forward to adopting the best practices and building on the warfare training standards achieved in the Malabar drills.”