Visakhapatnam: The Indian Navy and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) are gearing up for the first-ever joint maritime exercise, AUSINDEX. The exercise will be held off the Vizag coast, between September 16 and 18.
The joint maritime exercise between the two nations assumes significance in the backdrop of China trying to gain access to the Bay of Bengal, by cultivating naval cooperation with Bangladesh, Myanmar and military cooperation with Sri Lanka, while India is trying to strengthen its naval cooperation with her allies.
Significantly the US is the main security ally of Australia, which is looking at rebalancing the Asia Pacific region and expecting India, Australia, Japan to strengthen their ties.
Though, initially, India had wanted to include Japan in the upcoming exercise, making it trilateral, it was later decided that the exercise would be held only with Australia. The three nations, India, Australia and Japan, had also held their first-ever high level trilateral meeting in New Delhi in the second week of June, attended by Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, Japan’s vice-foreign minister Akitaka Saiki and Australia’s secretary of the department of foreign affairs and trade Peter Varghese.
Earlier, inclusion of Japan and Australia in the Indo-US annual maritime exercise- Malabar, in Bay of Bengal in 2007, had rattled China.
“It’s a great opportunity to strengthen ties and cooperation between the two nations. It’s just two weeks from now that our ships will be anchored in India for the first maritime exercise between India and Australia and we are keenly looking forward for it,” Australian High Commission’s defence attaché Captain Sheldon Williams told this newspaper. He added that Australia is also keen on the maritime exercise with India along with US and Japan. To a query, Capt. Williams said if invited, Australia would take part in next year’s Indo-US Malabar maritime exercise.
An Indian Navy delegation, led by Eastern Naval Command (ENC), commander in chief, Vice Admiral Satish Soni, had visited Perth in Australia in June this year to discus modalities on the joint exercise.