India and Australia on Wednesday gave a boost to their bilateral defence ties by pledging to support each other’s strategic and security interests, including those in the maritime domain, particularly freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
As part of the effort, New Delhi and Canberra decided to hold their first joint Naval exercise in 2015 and India will send one of its warships to an International Fleet Review in Sydney in March 2014.
These measures will be over and above the regular meetings that the defence top brass of the both the sides hold at the bilateral level and multilateral fora.
And the crucial decision to further enhance the bilateral defence ties was taken during Union Defence Minister A K Antony’s ongoing visit to Australia. During the visit, the first-ever visit by an Indian Defence Minister to Australia, Antony held talks with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith at Perth on Tuesday and at Canberra on Wednesday.
The two leaders discussed “shared strategic and security interests, including maritime security and bilateral defence cooperation,” a joint statement, issued after the meeting, said.
Though China and its growing aggression in the South China Sea was not mentioned in the statement, the reference to freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions was a clear give away.
“Both sides acknowledged that maritime security and freedom of navigation in accordance with principles of international law is critical for the growth and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions,” the statement said.
The statement also spelt out a six-pronged strategy that the two nations would adopt in order to further bilateral cooperation.
The two sides would continue their regular bilateral defence minister-level meetings, apart from promoting exchanges between the defence establishments and the Armed Forces, including regular defence policy dialogue and professional military exchanges.