New Delhi (IANS) India and Australia on Wednesday agreed that maritime security should remain a key component of their defence relationship and decided to hold army-to-army talks on annual basis.
Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews, who is on a four-day visit to India, held talks with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi.
According to a defence ministry release, the meeting between Andrews and Parrikar was followed by a delegation-level talks to discuss issues of shared strategic interest and the current state of the bilateral defence relationship between the two countries.
The two sides issued a joint statement which said that the first navy-to-navy bilateral maritime exercise will be held later this month.
“The exercise will involve multiple ship visits and maritime assets from both the countries and will foster greater interoperability and cooperation between both nations and further contribute to maritime security,” the statement said.
It said India and Australia have held defence policy talks and bilateral army, navy and air force staff talks since the last defence ministers’ meeting.
“To further bolster this good progress, it was agreed that the ministerial level meeting may continue to be held regularly while the army to army talks would now be held on annual basis,” the statement said.
The two sides decided that Royal Australian Navy will participate in the Indian Navy International Fleet Review in February 2016 and bilateral maritime exercise will continue on a biennial basis.
They also decided to establish a joint working group on defence research and material cooperation, closer air force engagement including Indian attendance at the Royal Australian Air Force exercise ‘PITCH BLACK’.
They also agreed to creation of a closer Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) relationship, commencing with a regular subject matter expert exchange.
The two sides will also have increased air force cooperation on aviation safety and air worthiness.
The two ministers acknowledged the progress made during the past year in bilateral defence cooperation and underscored their ongoing interest in fostering and maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
The ministers also discussed the centenary of the First World War and recalled the contribution made by the Indian and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) forces during the Gallipoli campaign.
The ministers affirmed their desire to deepen the bilateral defence relationship based on shared strategic interests and to implement the action plan outlined in the Framework for Security Cooperation agreed to by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Tony Abbott in November last year.
“Given both nations’ interest in the Indian Ocean and its vital importance to regional and global trade, the ministers acknowledged the importance of freedom of maritime navigation and agreed that maritime security should remain a key component of the bilateral defence relationship,” the statement said.
It said Australia and India will also continue to cooperate through joint work as part of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus construct.
The statement said that defence science and technology organizations and the Defence Research and Development Organization would continue to explore opportunities to identify areas for cooperation.
The release said the ministers agreed that implementing the new initiatives would strengthen the robust defence relationship and their long-term objective was to develop a significant defence and security relationship.
“This will be important as we respond to shared challenges and work together to ensure a secure and stable region,” the release said. The Australian defence minister had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.