India and Australia sign defence deal to support a 'stable' and 'rules-based' Indo-Pacific region

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India and Australia sign defence deal to support a 'stable' and 'rules-based' Indo-Pacific region
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the virtual summit on June 4 YouTube/PMO India
  • India and Australia signed two new landmark agreements to boost their cooperation in defence.
  • This includes the ‘Australia-India Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement’ (MLSA) and the ‘Defence Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement’.
  • “We have a strong shared interest in working together to support a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” said Austalia’s Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced two landmarks defence agreements between the two countries — the ‘Australia-India Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement’ (MLSA) and the ‘Defence Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement’.

“We share an ocean and we share a responsibility for that ocean. Its health, well being and security,” said Morrison during the virtual summit between the two countries on Thursday, June 4.

The central theme of both the agreements of maintaining a ‘rules-based’ maritime order in the region based on international law as put forward by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This includes tackling issues like terrorism, piracy, drugs and arms smuggling, irregular migration, poaching of marine species, and other challenges.

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An indirect message to China as military interoperability gets a boost
Australia’s Minister of Defence, Linda Reynolds explained that the MLSA will enhance military interoperability between the two countries. This means that all segments of the Armed Forces, especially the Navy, are likely to hold most joint operations.

Reynolds said that the arrangement will enable more complex military engagements and greater combined responsiveness to regional humanitarian disasters. “We have a strong shared interest in working together to support a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” she said.

The MEA re-iterated that both countries have shared interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific region.

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Given that India and Australia are “natural partners” in maintaining open, safe and efficient sea lanes for transportation and communication, “Both sides agreed to continue to deepen and broaden defence cooperation,” it said explaining that the scope and complexity of their military exercises will find new ways to address security challenges.

These “security challenges” may also include incursions by China in the South China Sea although it wasn’t specifically mentioned during the summit. It has been involved in a number of disputes with Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan. The US and other nations have frequently expressed their concerns over what they see as China expanding its power in the region, especially with the fortification and militarization of smaller islands.

Beijing, on the other hand, has always maintained that it poses no threat to the free flow of commerce and navigation through the seas.

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