The future of India-Australia defense and technology cooperation
The future of a secure Indo-Pacific lies in the strong strategic ties between India and Australia
India's minister of defense Rajnath Singh with his Australian counterpart Richard Marles
The year gone by has been a major milestone in the India-Australia relationship and the two countries have worked closely to create a stronger Indo-pacific. The immense potential that lies in the Indo-Pacific in terms of steering the direction of global politics can only be achieved when the countries in the region take the initiative to engage with each other in cooperation. India and Australia have become an important example in this regard. They have taken the most important steps in the direction of a strong strategic, economic and cultural relationship that would further guide the trajectory of their partnership in the years to come.
The path breaking India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) not only turned the tide in favour of strengthening the economic engagement but also provided a secure platform for the countries to further expand on the existing measures.
The rising threat perception of foreign power intervention, especially China, had earlier guided the way for greater defence and strategic cooperation when it comes to the two biggest democracies in the region. The establishment of the multilateral grouping, the Quad, is a testament to the fact that creating cooperative mechanisms is the only way to tackle the China problem. Amongst the Quad countries, India and Australia have managed to develop a successful bilateral partnership that transcends all the sectors of defence and security as well as economic and cultural engagement.
Focus on the maritime domain
India and Australia have been actively developing pathways to cooperate on defence ties since decades. The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between India and Australia developed in 2020 now forms the backbone of defence engagement between the two countries and takes into account the contemporary realities of the world. The foundation of this strategic partnership was laid for years when both the countries got together to form the Memorandum on Defence Cooperation in 2006 and this was later reiterated in the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2009. The defence training exercises such as Pitch Black, for the Australian and Indian Air Force or the AUSINDEX for the naval forces have become an integral part of this defence cooperation and opportunities are being developed to strengthen the ties further.
The challenges of the pandemic had formed an important basis of this strategic partnership 2020 with the realisation that mutual cooperation in times like the pandemic can be the only security mechanism to protect the interests of the states involved. However, in the post pandemic world, several new challenges lie ahead and the resolve to cooperate on strategic terms would work in favour of both India and Australia.
One of the key areas that could see a boost in the coming years is cooperation in the maritime domain. The fact that both the countries are rapidly engaging in joint naval exercises and the Australian government has even developed a flagship project for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, named the Indo-Pacific Endeavour (IPE) suggests that naval cooperation lies high in the priority scale for the countries. The bilateral AUSINDEX forms an important part of this endeavour and the two countries have been actively participating in the exercises with their naval deployments.
India and Australia have also been a part of the multilateral MALABAR exercise of the Quad grouping. This multilateral cooperation has successfully transitioned into a strong bilateral engagement for the two countries. Naval cooperation for the Indo-Pacific region is key in the coming years to maintain rule of law in the region.This suggests that defence cooperation, especially in the maritime sector is likely to grow manifolds in the coming years and this would translate well into other areas of cooperation.
The Defence Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement (DSTIA)
A significant factor in growing bilateral ties further is a strong focus on technology. Technological development in the domain of defence and security has always been a priority for the states to enhance their security quotient. Cooperation on technological development in defence equipment manufacturing as well as strategic interoperability would become an important currency for the India-Australia bilateral partnership.
The recognition of the importance of technology and research in improving on defence ties is very important to keep exploring new areas of cooperation.
The Defense Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement along with the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement together form the framework that would assist India and Australia in deepening their defence ties further through a focus on research and development. The Logistics Support Agreement aims to enhance the cooperation on interchange of defence support to improve upon the interoperability and exchange of information. The focus was also on responding to humanitarian disasters and increasing responsiveness. This agreement is a breakthrough for an evolving defence and strategic partnership.
The India-Australia defence and technology relationship has positively evolved over time and there have been increasing efforts on both sides to maintain this momentum through agreements such as these. It can be noted that the experiences of the global pandemic and the volatile global security situation had prompted India and Australia to keep working towards enhancing security cooperation that would not only benefit the two countries but the region as a whole. The future of the India-Australia defence and security cooperation remains very positive and dynamic.