NEW DELHI: India and Australia began their third biennial naval exercise AUSINDEX on Tuesday off the coast of Visakhapatnam, in a sign of India’s increasing outreach to important naval powers in the Indo-Pacific region at a time when China is aiming to increase its influence in the same region.
The exercise will focus on anti-submarine warfare with both Australia and India deploying the largest number of assets to date, the Indian Navy said.
“The increased scale of participation signifies the importance attached to the exercise by both countries while the enhanced complexity is indicative of the interoperability between the two navies," the Navy said.
“Overall, the exercise underscores India’s vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and shared objectives of the two countries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain and solidarity with friendly and harmonious countries," it said.
India has for many years been conducting trilateral exercises with the US and Japan under the series codenamed Malabar. New Delhi has been seen as fighting shy of including Australia in the Malabar series despite India, Australia, the US and Japan sharing similar views on a “free and open Indo-Pacific" and freedom of navigation and overflight. The four countries are loosely known as the “Quad". India has said that the Quad is not aimed at China.
AUSINDEX began in September 2015 off the coast of Visakhapatnam with Australia hosting the second edition off Freemantle in June 2017.
“India has a positive defence relationship, underpinned by the 2006 Memorandum of Defence Cooperation and 2009 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation. However, post the 2014 bilateral Framework of Security Cooperation being signed, the cooperation on defence and security matters between the two countries has gained significant momentum thus witnessing conscious and focussed enhancements," the Indian Navy said.
The fortnight-long exercises, which began on Tuesday, will involve the Landing Helicopter Dock, HMAS (Her Majesty’s Australian Ship) Canberra, two frigates— HMAS New Castle and HMAS Paramatta—and HMAS Collins, a conventional submarine. HMAS Success, a Durance-class multi-product replenishment vessel, is also participating in this year’s exercises.