India, Australia, set to bolster Indo-Pacific bonding, defence ties


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The Indo-Pacific bonding between New Delhi and Canberra is set to get stronger amid China’s assertive posturing in the region during Defence Minister Kevin Andrews’ ongoing visit to India which will focus on bolstering security ties between the two countries.

Mr Andrews’ visit to India comes ahead of AUSINDEX, the first-ever joint maritime exercise to be held between India and Australia in mid-September. The joint naval exercise between both countries will be held at the Visakhapatnam port in the Bay of Bengal.

In a column for the Hindu, Mr Andrews spoke about how India is an important player and a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region. Speaking about the relation between the two countries, he said as emerging powers both countries would seek to advance their own interests, while they would cooperate in some areas they would also compete in the other areas. Mr Andrews did not mince any words when he spoke about the contentious South China Sea dispute. “Tensions in the Indo-Pacific persist, and in some cases, are becoming more acute. Territorial disputes continue to risk regional stability and create uncertainty. Australia has a legitimate interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation and overflight, especially in the South China Sea.”

India and Australia are also expected to sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement by the end of 2015 that would help strengthen bilateral trade and investments that will complement growing strategic partnership between both countries. The two-countries are also looking to build a bilateral Air Force relationship based on the use of common platforms such as the Hawk, C-17, C-130 and P8 maritime patrol aircraft.

With growing uncertainty in the maritime domain, the need for India and Australia to work together to maintain regional security has never been stronger. As Australia prepares to release a new Defence whitepaper, it is looking to collaborate with other countries to maintain regional security and stability. Given the circumstances, Australia views India as a major strategic partner that could help in strengthening peace in the region.

The joint naval exercise between India and Australia is the beginning of a relationship that has progressed to strategic partnership and is expected to grow further as the two countries look to explore newer ways to cooperate in the region. China’s growing assertion in the region has made Australia serious about strengthening its partnership with like-minded countries like India and Japan. With India, Japan and Australia holding their first ever trilateral dialogue recently, it is a sign of a tangible change in the geopolitics of the region.