‘India is top-tier security partner’: Australia in first national defence strategy | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘India is top-tier security partner’: Australia in first national defence strategy

Apr 18, 2024 04:26 PM IST

The document, issued by the Anthony Albanese government on Wednesday, states that Australia will support India’s key role in the region by enhancing defence cooperation

Australia perceives India as a “top-tier security partner” and is giving priority to practical and tangible cooperation between the two sides that contributes to Indo-Pacific stability, according to the maiden national defence strategy released by Canberra.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Australian PM Anthony Albanese in Sydney on May 23, 2023. (Reuters Photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Australian PM Anthony Albanese in Sydney on May 23, 2023. (Reuters Photo)

The document, issued by the Anthony Albanese government on Wednesday, states that Australia will support India’s key role in the region by enhancing defence cooperation. Australia will also seek opportunities with India to drive bilateral and multilateral cooperation, defence industry cooperation and information-sharing.

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The national defence strategy aims to bolster the Australian Defence Force (ADF)’s deterrence and warfighting capabilities in the Indo-Pacific, including by building stronger partnerships with key countries. Defence minister Richard Marles has said Australia plans to hike military spending by $50.3 billion over the next decade and hit $100 billion by 2033.

“India is a top-tier security partner for Australia. Through the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Australia and India, the Government is continuing to prioritise practical and tangible cooperation that directly contributes to Indo-Pacific stability,” the document stated in the section devoted to the Indian Ocean region.

“Australia will continue to support India’s key role in the region by increasing the depth and complexity of our defence cooperation. The Government will continue to seek opportunities with India to drive practical bilateral and multilateral cooperation, defence industry cooperation and information sharing,” it said.

India and Australia, both members of the Quad grouping that includes Japan and the United States, have witnessed a marked uptick in their defence and security cooperation in recent years. In addition to a range of military training exercises, India and Australia also participate in the annual Malabar naval exercise with the other two Quad members.

In 2020, India and Australia signed the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA), which allows both sides to access each other’s military bases for logistical support. Much of the military cooperation has been driven by shared concerns about China’s aggressive behaviour across the region.

The national defence strategy said Australia must work with key partners such as Japan, South Korea and India that “share our concerns and are prepared to strengthen cooperation in support of shared interests”.

Describing the northeastern Indian Ocean as central to Australia’s security and sea lines of communication, the document said the Australian side will engage with several other countries in this region.

In addition to engaging with India, Australia’s defence cooperation in the Indian Ocean will focus on regularising the ADF’s presence, including increasing deployments, training and exercises with Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bangladesh, and bolstering regional maritime domain awareness.

The ADF will also continue to integrate with the US and “key partner defence forces – particularly Japan, Indonesia, India, the Republic of Korea, the UK, France, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines – to coordinate our collective strengths and minimise gaps in our global security engagement”, the document said.

However, the document acknowledged the “risk of a crisis or conflict in the Taiwan Strait is increasing, as well as at other flashpoints, including disputes in the South and East China Seas and on the border with India”. There is also increasing competition for access and influence across the Indian Ocean, including efforts to secure dominance over sea lanes and strategic ports.

The document also pointed to India’s strained relations with China and Pakistan. “There remains potential for tension and miscommunication between India and Pakistan, and between India and China – with the risk of nuclear weapons use or proliferation a factor in each potential flashpoint,” it said.

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