NEW DELHI: India and Australia on Wednesday determined to further strengthen their defense ties through combat exercises, intelligence sharing, mutual logistics and military-industrial cooperation, as well as work steadfastly towards their shared goal of an open, resilient and secure Indo-Pacific in the face of aggressive moves by China.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Secretary Richard marlesin the first high-level visit to India since Anthony Albanese’s new government came to power in Canberra, India strongly supported its more than two-year military confrontation with China in the east ladakh†
“The attack on Indian forces along the Line of Actual Control in 2020 was a warning that we should all heed. Australia stood up for India’s sovereignty then and continues to do so now,” said Marles.
China’s recent security pact with the strategically located archipelago of the Solomon Islands in the Pacific and its expansionary moves in the South China Sea were also discussed in extensive talks with the Indian delegation led by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.
“The two sides also discussed ways to expand maritime and other cooperation in the Indian Ocean and the greater Indo-Pacific region, both bilaterally and trilaterally with some ASEAN countries,” an official said.
Speaking later at the National Defense College, Marles warned that China’s military buildup is “the largest and most ambitious” of any country since World War II, troubling both its neighbors and others for lack of transparency.
It is “vital” that China commits to resolve the dispute in eastern Ladakh through a process of dialogue consistent with international law. “The global rule-based order matters everywhere, including the highest place on Earth,” he added.
Marles, who also met with Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, said Australia was determined to put India at the “heart” of its country’s approach to the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
For his part, Singh said the close cooperation on defense and security between India and Australia is an important pillar of the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership and crucial for stability in the Indo-Pacific.
The two ministers welcomed the growing diversity and frequency of bilateral military exercises and exchanges, including India’s participation in Australia’s Indo Pacific Endeavor exercise in October this year.
They also pledged to build on operational agreements through the bilateral Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA), which provides for refueling and building facilities for each other’s warships and aircraft. India also has such a mutual military logistics pact with the US, Australia, Japan, France, South Korea and Singapore.
The joint working group on defense research and equipment cooperation, which will meet in Australia later this year, will also receive a boost. “This JWG is a critical mechanism to strengthen ties between defense industries. Areas such as AI, cyber, space, quantum and drones were identified as potential areas for collaboration,” said an official.
The two countries have stepped up their military commitment in recent years in line with their shared strategic interests, with Australia also regularly participating in the Indian naval exercise in Malabar with the US and Japan. With a view to China, the ‘Quad’ countries have expressed their intent to deter any “compulsion” in the Indo-Pacific.
The Quad countries have also launched a number of initiatives to enhance cooperation across the region, ranging from maritime awareness and cybersecurity to securing supply chains in semiconductors, 5G telecommunications telecommunications technologies and other critical areas.