Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Richard Marles, emphasized the deepening ties between Australia and India during a recent interview with WION’s diplomatic correspondent, Sidhant Sibal. The interview covered various aspects of the bilateral relationship, including strategic alignment, defense cooperation, and regional dynamics. Here are the key highlights:
· Strategic Alignment and Shared Values:
Richard Marles highlighted a significant strategic alignment between Australia and India, both sharing concerns about China’s influence. He emphasized the shared values of democracy, freedom of speech, and the rule of law.
The Deputy PM emphasized that the relationship extends beyond geopolitics, noting the common passion for cricket as emblematic of the strong bond between the two nations.
· Defense Cooperation and Interoperability:
Richard Marles pointed out the increasing tempo of joint military exercises, such as Malabar, AUSINDEX, and AUSTRA HIND, which contribute to building familiarity and interoperability between the defense forces.
The Logistics Agreement signed in 2020 was highlighted as crucial, facilitating not only military exercises but also humanitarian support, as seen in providing assistance to Tonga.
· Indian Ocean Engagement:
Both countries recognize the increasing contestation in the Indian Ocean. Marles expressed Australia’s interest in working closely with India in this region, emphasizing the importance of maritime domain awareness and sharing information.
· Concerns Over Chinese Aggressiveness:
He acknowledged China’s assertiveness and highlighted recent incidents, such as the encounter involving HMAS Toowoomba, expressing concern over aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.
The Deputy PM emphasized the need for Australia and India to build capabilities and work closely together in response to the changing strategic landscape.
· Quad and AUKUS Involvement:
Australia expressed contentment with the current Quad composition and clarified that there are no plans to expand its membership. The Quad is seen as a platform for cooperation beyond defense.
Regarding AUKUS, Marles indicated an openness to expanding technology-sharing cooperation under pillar two, emphasizing the significance of Australia’s need for nuclear-powered submarines.
· Increasing Engagement in the Pacific:
Richard Marles welcomed the increased Indian presence in the Pacific and emphasized the importance of Australia and India working together in the region.
· Growing Relationship Between Leaders:
The Australian Deputy PM highlighted the strong personal relationship between Prime Minister Albanese and Prime Minister Modi. He also acknowledged the growing Indian diaspora in Australia, transforming the relationship into one of close friends and family.
· Cricket Diplomacy:
Richard Marles shared his experience at the Cricket World Cup finals in Ahmedabad, emphasizing the role of cricket in strengthening bilateral ties. He noted that for Australia, India is now a familiar and significant partner in the world of cricket.
This interview showcased the multifaceted nature of the Australia-India relationship, spanning strategic alignment, defense cooperation, regional engagement, and people-to-people ties. The leaders expressed a commitment to deepening these connections in the face of evolving geopolitical challenges.