Indian-Australian bilateral summit to focus on defence ties

The first India-Australia virtual bilateral summit is to be held today, during which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian

Morrison Modi

Photo: Indian Ministry of External Affairs

The first India-Australia virtual bilateral summit is to be held today, during which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are expected to discuss defence relations between the two countries.

The leaders are expected to sign a landmark accord, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA), which will enhance defence cooperation by establishing reciprocal access to military facilities and logistics support. The agreement will also facilitate large-scale joint military exercises like AUSINDEX, a bilateral naval exercise conducted between India and Australia last spring.

The summit takes place against a backdrop of China’s increased naval presence in the Indian Ocean, targeted efforts to win over Pacific countries and challenges to traditional Indian and Australian spheres of influence. An enhancement of bilateral maritime security serves the strategic interests of both New Delhi and Canberra, as they share a common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The MLSA could lead to further avenues of cooperation, including possible Australian inclusion in the trilateral Malabar naval exercise currently conducted between India, Japan and the US. This would bolster the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), revived in 2017, by facilitating meaningful outcome-oriented cooperation and geopolitical signalling of Indo-Pacific stability.

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