On Wednesday, India and Australia agreed to intensify their defence cooperation through joint training exercises, intelligence-sharing, reciprocal logistics, and military-industrial cooperation. They also agreed to keep pushing forward with efforts to achieve their shared goal of a secure, open, and open Indo-Pacific in the face of Chinese aggression.
In his first high-level visit to India since the new Anthony Albanese government took office in Canberra, Australian deputy prime minister and defence minister Richard Marles firmly backed India in its more than two-year-long military conflict with China in eastern Ladakh.
“The attack on Indian forces at the Line of Actual Control in 2020 served as a cautionary tale for everyone. Australia defended India’s sovereignty back then, and it still does today, according to Marles.
In-depth discussions with the Indian team, led by the defence minister Rajnath Singh, also touched on China’s recent security agreement with the strategically situated archipelago Solomon Islands in the Pacific and its aggressive actions in the South China Sea.
According to an official, “the two sides also discussed measures to strengthen maritime and other cooperation in the Indian Ocean and the greater Indo-Pacific area, bilaterally as well as tri-laterally with some ASEAN countries.”
Marles stated that due to a lack of openness, China’s military build-up is “the broadest and most ambitious” by any nation since World War II. He made this warning while speaking later at the National Defence College.
China’s commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ladakh via a diplomatic procedure that complies with international law is “important.” “Everywhere, including the highest point on Earth, the global rules-based system matters,” he continued.
Marles, who also met with S Jaishankar, the minister of external affairs, stated that Australia was committed to making India the “heart” of his nation’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
Singh responded by saying that India and Australia’s tight defence and security cooperation was a key component of their bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership and essential for maintaining peace in the Indo-Pacific region.
The expanding variety and frequency of bilateral military exercises and exchanges, which will include India’s participation in Australia’s Indo Pacific Endeavour exercise in October this year, were welcomed by the two ministers.
Through the bilateral Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA), which offers refuelling and berthing facilities for each other’s warships and planes, they also agreed to build on operational engagements. With the US, Australia, Japan, France, South Korea, and Singapore, India also has reciprocal military logistics agreements.
A boost will also be given to the joint working group on defence research and material cooperation, which will meet in Australia later this year. “This JWG is an essential tool for strengthening ties among the defence industries. “Potential areas for cooperation were found in AI, cyber, space, quantum, and drones,” an official added.
In line with their shared strategic interests, the two nations have increased their military cooperation in recent years. Australia has also started taking part regularly in India’s Malabar naval drill with the US and Japan. The “Quad” nations have made it clear that they intend to prevent any “coercion” in the Indo-Pacific, with a close eye on China.
The Quad countries have also started a variety of measures to improve collaboration throughout the region, ranging from securing supply chains in semiconductors, 5G communications technologies, and other crucial fields to maritime domain awareness and cyber-security.