India and Australia Defense Agreement

26 Jun

India and Australia Defense Agreement

India and Australia signed a landmark defense agreement in early June 2020 for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support to further broad base and consolidate the security relationship. The pact is the outcome of the online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on 4th June.

It is called the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA).

It will allow militaries of the two countries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies besides facilitating scaling up of overall defense cooperation.

India has already signed similar agreements with the US, France and Singapore.

This is the first virtual bilateral summit India is holding with any country. Australian PM Scott Morrison was scheduled to visit New Delhi in January 2020 but had postponed it due to the bush fires in Australia.


What is the substance of the MLSA?

MLSA would clear the way for more military exchanges and exercises in the Indo-Pacific. The agreement allows Indian and Australian military ships and aircraft to access maintenance facilities available at each other's bases. MLSA is not only important for our two nations but also for the Indo-Pacific region and the whole world.

Potential areas in maritime security include greater cooperation in humanitarian and disaster relief operations and search and rescue, maritime border protection and maritime domain awareness.

The joint statement issued after the talks said: "Both sides agreed to continue to deepen and broaden defense cooperation by enhancing the scope and complexity of their military exercises and engagement activities to develop new ways to address shared security challenges."


What is the history of bilateral strategic cooperation?

The two countries had originally entered into a strategic partnership in 2009. Prime Ministers Abbott and Modi signed a landmark deal to increase their nation's defense relationship in 2014. Part of the framework for security co-operation includes annual Prime Ministerial meetings and joint maritime exercises. Areas of increased co-operation include counter-terrorism, border control and regional and international institutions. India-Australia partnership is for advancing regional peace and stability and combating terrorism and transnational crimes.

The two nations formally decided to elevate bilateral ties from the current Strategic Partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), spanning the entire gamut of the relationship. For example Accords were also struck to enhance cooperation on cyber and related technologies.


Why security cooperation?

The broader security cooperation is for a variety of reasons.

  1. Keep the sea and ocean commons free of interference.
  2. Ensure that the bilateral trade and investments are protected.
  3. Ensure regional economies are safe.
  4. Strategic stability of Asia and the world. Such stability is subject to increasing danger due to China's growing military and economic pressure in the region.

What binds us together?

There are multiple factors binding India and Australia, namely

  1. Geographical proximity
  2. Both are democracies
  3. Both being members of the Indo-Pacific, have similar security perceptions
  4. Both are resenting Chinese unilateralism and aggression

What are AUSINDEX and Quad?

Every two years, Australia and India also conduct a joint naval exercise in the Indian Ocean, called AUSINDEX. In 2019, AUSINDEX focused on anti-submarine warfare.

India and Australia along with the United States and Japan are part of the four-nation "Quad", an arrangement that focuses on maintenance of a "rules-based order" in the Indo-Pacific region. This has also brought India and Australia much closer to each other strategically.

India is looking forward to Australia's participation in annual naval exercises, that the country holds with the US and Japan in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, as a sign of concrete security ties between the countries.


How can we say Australia and India can be described as natural allies?

Australia has traditionally supported India's position on Arunachal Pradesh against Chinese designs.

Australia supports India's candidacy for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.

The country also affirmed its continuous support for India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG).

Both are members of the Commonwealth of Nations and of regional organisations including the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation(IOR-ARC) and ASEAN Regional Forum.

Of late, Australia is facing Chinese anger. It became intense since the pandemic broke out. Australia angered China by pushing for an international review into the origins and spread of the novel coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

Although China is the biggest buyer of Australia’s exports, there have been trading frictions between the two recently.