Defence Minister Rajnath Singh holds bilateral talks with Australian Deputy PM and Defence Minister Richard Marles before 2+2 Ministerial dialogue

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles held bilateral talks on Monday during which they underscored enhancing cooperation further in information exchange and Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). The two sides are also in an advanced stage of discussion to conclude implementing arrangements on hydrography cooperation and cooperation for air-to-air refuelling, the Defence Ministry said.

“Mr. Singh emphasised that the forces of the two countries should also look at cooperating in niche training areas like artificial Intelligence, anti-submarine and anti-drone warfare and cyber domain,” the Ministry said in a statement. “The two ministers agreed that deepening cooperation in defence industry and research would give a fillip to the already strong relationship.”

The bilateral meeting was held at South Block before the 2+2 Ministerial dialogue. Mr. Marles reviewed a tri-service guard of honour before the start of the meeting.

Mr. Singh suggested that shipbuilding, ship repair and maintenance, and aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul could be the potential areas of collaboration, the Ministry said.

The two Ministers also discussed cooperation for joint research in underwater technologies, and collaboration between defence start-ups of both the countries, including solving challenges jointly. “They concurred that a strong India-Australia defence partnership will augur well not just for the mutual benefit of the two countries but also for the overall security of the Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.

Both Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening bilateral defence relations, the statement said, and expressed satisfaction over the increasing military-to-military cooperation between the two countries, including joint exercises, exchanges, and institutional dialogue.

Defence cooperation between India and Australia has seen a transformation in recent years, with a series of exchanges, high-level visits, and exercises, both bilateral and multilateral. In addition, MDA, subsurface domain awareness, and anti-submarine warfare have been major focus areas for the Quad group of countries comprising India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. in the backdrop of the rapid expansion of Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region.

In information sharing, the Quad’s Indo-Pacific MDA or IPMDA is currently in the implementation phase, and will be on top of the agenda at the upcoming Quad summit to be hosted by India early next year, sources said..

India and Australia signed a Mutual Logistics Support agreement in 2020, and the two Navies signed the ‘Joint Guidance for the India-Australia Navy to Navy Relationship’ document in August 2021. Australia also has a Liaison Officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region.

There have been several firsts this year in bilateral defence cooperation — the maiden visit of an Indian Navy submarine to Australia; Canberra hosting the Malabar naval exercise; and Indian Navy Dornier and Air Force C-130 visiting Cocos Keeling island, as reported earlier.