Australia deputy PM on 4-day India visit starting today; defence co-op on agenda | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Australia deputy PM on 4-day India visit starting today; defence co-op on agenda

Jun 20, 2022 02:26 PM IST

Richard Marles, who is the first senior member of the Anthony Albanese government to travel to New Delhi, will meet Union defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar during his visit

Australia’s deputy prime minister and defence minister Richard Marles on Monday embarked on a four-day visit to India, aimed at bolstering defence and security cooperation, and engagement across the Indo-Pacific Region.

Australian deputy prime minister and defence minister Richard Marles. (AP Photo)
Australian deputy prime minister and defence minister Richard Marles. (AP Photo)

Marles, who is the first senior member of the Anthony Albanese government to travel to New Delhi, will meet Union defence minister Rajnath Singh, external affairs minister S Jaishankar and other senior Indian officials.

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His visit to India comes less than a month after the formation of the new government in Australia following the general elections, and the trip underscores the importance attached by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to relations with India.

Ahead of his departure for New Delhi, Marles described India as “one of Australia’s closest security partners” and said his government is “focused on revitalising Australia’s historically deep engagement with our partners across the Indo-Pacific”.

“The rules-based international order that has brought peace and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific for decades is experiencing pressure, as we face shifts in the geostrategic order. Australia stands ready to work closer with India in support of an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific,” he added.

The past few years have seen a significant increase in defence cooperation between the two countries, including the signing of the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) in 2020 that allows both sides to access each other’s military bases for logistics support.

Marles, who will be in India from June 20-23, said, “Australia and India are comprehensive strategic partners. I am committed to strengthening Australia’s defence and security cooperation with India.”

He added that he was looking forward to meeting Singh and holding their first bilateral meeting.

“Minister Singh has been instrumental in advancing India-Australia defence ties and I look forward to working with him to enhance the defence pillar of our comprehensive strategic partnership,” he said.

Marles will also engage national security and defence policy-makers and personnel during his visit.

The Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022, the Australian defence ministry’s flagship engagement activity, returns to India this year.

Both countries currently have strained ties with China.

While India has been locked in a military standoff with China for more than two years, Australia-China ties have been at a low since 2020, with Beijing imposing steep tariffs, unofficial bans and strict screening requirements for Australian exports.

Albanese attended a Quad Summit within hours of being sworn in last month, and recently sent foreign minister Penny Wong to Pacific Island nations to dissuade them from forging new security arrangements with China.

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