India and Australia have reached tactical interoperability, there is opportunity to start coordinating activities: Australian officer

Elaborating on the bilateral military cooperation, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, Chief of Joint Operations, Australia, said one of the key factors that has helped the relationship grow is the sharing of intelligence and information

October 11, 2023 11:13 pm | Updated October 12, 2023 06:31 am IST - NEW DELHI

Chief of Defence Staff, General Anil Chauhan meets Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, Chief of Joint Ops Australia, on October 11, 2023.

Chief of Defence Staff, General Anil Chauhan meets Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, Chief of Joint Ops Australia, on October 11, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

India and Australia have reached a stage of tactical interoperability and there is an opportunity to start coordinating activities and leverage the resources of both nations to be able to achieve better levels of situational awareness, said Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, Chief of Joint Operations, Australia talking of the significant deepening of military cooperation.

Our interests intersect initially in the Indian Ocean, and where the countries conduct naval, air and maritime activities together, the visiting Australian officer said.

“We are at a point of our relationship where we de-conflict and make each other aware of the activities we are doing, but we are not at a point where we coordinate our activities in the Indian Ocean and other parts of the Indo-Pacific. My view is that there is an opportunity to perhaps to start to coordinate our activities, leverage of the resources of both our nations to be able to achieve better levels of situational awareness,” Lt. Gen. Bilton said speaking at the India Defence Conclave organised by news portal Bharat Shakti on Tuesday.

Elaborating on the bilateral military cooperation, he said one of the key factors that has helped the relationship grow is the sharing of intelligence and information. “Since November last year, my headquarters has sent 31 dossiers of intelligence relating to activities in the Indian Ocean though our Defence Attaché into the Indian military system. That’s ok. I would like to get to a point where we could provide directly to an operational headquarters,” Lt. Gen. Bilton stated.

What I am giving is an opportunity to “operationalise our relationship,” he said stating that there was an opportunity to go a “more sophisticated level and there is the appetite as well.” It’s about sharing, transparency and sharing information to build trust, the Gen stressed.

Speaking in the same session on the Indo-Pacific, Vice-Admiral Dinesh Tripathi, Western Naval Commander said what we are witnessing right now is geopolitics, technology and in the security domain tactics, all are in a state of flux, concurrently. “All are in a state of flux, at the same time.” 

“Indian Navy is keeping a very close watch as to what is happening and we are partnering with all friendly foreign countries because we do believe that the only way forward is cooperation through collaboration, consensus and communication,” he said in this regard. “We also believe no one country has the capacity and capability to keep the sea lanes of communication open at all times.”

Talking of the bilateral relationship, highlighting the importance which India attaches to Australia, Vice-Admiral Tripathi noted that in August two Indian naval ships were on the East coast of Australia in Sydney for exercise Malabar, while at the same a submarine was on the West coast of Australia, the maiden deployment of an Indian submarine to the country.

On the Indo-Pacific and Australia’s focus, Lt. Gen. Bilton said the strategic circumstances in their region in the Indo-Pacific have forced Australia to focus more closely here. We did have significant interests in the Middle East, contributing to operations to operations for 20 years through Afghanistan and Iraq, and it has been an absolute pivot to this region, he said. “And it’s principally, China’s militarisation of the region, Chinese expansion, not just in the first island chain but now deep into South East Asia and the Indian Ocean and equally into the South West Pacific. We have been quite closely focused on that...”

Further, said they are deeply interested in working with partners to uphold rules based international order. “From an Australian perspective, we can’t deter major powers on our own. But we absolutely believe the formula is to have trusted, transparent relationships with partners and allies that enable us to push back on bad behaviours where they occur,” Lt. Gen. Bilton said, stating it’s fundamentally Australia’s strategy.

India-Australia defence cooperation has been one of the fastest growing in recent years with series of exchanges, high-level visits and exercises, both bilateral and multilateral. In addition, Maritime Domain Awareness, subsurface domain awareness and Anri-Submarine Warfare have been major focus areas for the Quad group of countries comprising India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. in the backdrop of rapid expansion of Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region.

India and Australia signed a Mutual Logistics Support agreement in 2020 and the two Navies signed the ‘Joint Guidance for the India – Australia Navy to Navy Relationship’ document in August 2021.

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