India and Australia have agreed to hold a joint Naval exercise in 2015 to raise their defence cooperation initiatives to a higher level and strengthen their strategic partnership.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who is on a two-day visit to Australia, met his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith in Perth on Tuesday. They travelled together to Canberra on Wednesday to discuss shared strategic and security interests, including maritime security and bilateral defence cooperation.
A joint statement issued at the conclusion of Mr. Antony’s visit, the first by an Indian Defence Minister, stressed that both countries had agreed to continue Naval exchanges to build confidence and familiarity between the two Navies and work towards a bilateral maritime exercise in 2015. India and Australia had participated together in multilateral maritime exercises in Malabar in 2007 and in Milan in 2012.
Both sides acknowledged that maritime security and freedom of navigation in accordance with principles of international law were critical for the growth and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
Taking note of the growing cooperation between the two Navies, Mr. Antony accepted Mr. Smith’s invitation for Indian naval ships’ participation in the prestigious International Fleet Review (IFR) to be held in Sydney this October. The Indian Navy will get an opportunity to showcase its growing military capability at the IFR, where when mighty navies are expected to line up about 40 top-end warships. The Indian Navy’s participation is being seen as part of a big strategy unfolding in the Indian Ocean region to contain the ever-growing presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy.
The Ministers took note of the progress made in defence cooperation in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation concluded in 2006, the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation issued during the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s visit to India in 2009 and the Joint Statement issued during the visit of Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2012.
“They [the Defence Ministers] agreed that interactions held between the defence establishments of both sides in a variety of fields and at various levels have been mutually beneficial. Both sides were pleased with the bilateral architecture established for pursuing defence cooperation and agreed that consultations had helped deepen mutual trust and understanding between the defence establishments,” the joint statement said.
They agreed to continue consultations and cooperation on issues concerning the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions bilaterally as well as multilaterally, including through the East Asia Summit, the Asean Regional Forum, the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and the Indian Ocean Rim — Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).
The Ministers noted that both countries were already cooperating through the IONS — which Australia will chair next year before hosting the IONS Conclave of Chiefs in Perth in March 2014 — and the IOR-ARC, of which India is the current chair and Australia the next chair.
The Ministers also agreed to maintain regular ministerial meetings; promote exchanges between the defence establishments and both the Armed Forces, including regularly holding the Defence Policy Dialogue, Armed Forces Staff Talks and professional military exchanges; and to promote the sharing and exchange of professional knowledge and experiences through participation in training courses in each other’s military training institutions. Mr. Antony invited Mr. Smith to visit India.