In continuation of the trend of growing trilateral and multilateral exercises, two new trilateral naval exercises are in the works: one among India, Australia and Indonesia; and in the other, France is keen on joining India-Australia bilateral naval exercise AUSINDEX, according to two official sources.
“France is keen to join AUSINDEX and discussions are under way on how to take it forward,” one of the sources said. “Also a naval exercise between India, Australia and Indonesia is under discussion. The modalities are being worked out,” the source stated.
There are several other proposals for such exercises but a decision on them would be taken based on operational commitments and other factors. “There is increasing focus on minilaterals in the region and many countries are keen to exercise with India,” the source stated. With India’s capacity growing up in the Indian Ocean Region and the focus on Indo-Pacific, there was interest from many countries, a second source said.
In the last few years, India has significantly expanded its military to military engagement with both Australia and France on bilateral level.
Last year, India, Thailand and Singapore began an annual exercise, which completed the second edition last week. The 24th edition of the Malabar naval exercise among India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. just concluded, with Canberra joining the exercise for the first time since 2017.
Australian envoy’s call
In April, Australian High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell made a pitch for greater trilateral cooperation between India, Australia and Indonesia and called for building on last year’s successful trilateral maritime security workshop with Indonesia to identify new ways that the three countries can collaborate to be the “best possible custodians of the Indian Ocean.”
In February, India carried out its first joint patrol with France from Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. During this, an Indian Navy P-8I maritime patrol aircraft was deployed with French Navy personnel embarked onboard.
France was also the first country to deploy a Liaison Officer at the Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), followed by the U.S., which is meant to improve Maritime Domain Awareness in the Indian Ocean Region.