June 5, 2020 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
New Delhi: India and Australia have signed a pact on access to military bases for logistics support. The pact was one of the seven agreements singed after a virtual summit between Indian PM Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
The agreement allows Indian and Australian military ships and aircraft to refuel and access maintenance facilities at each other’s bases.
India has signed a similar deal with the Untied States of America (USA).
US and Australian deals with India are being viewed as part of broader security cooperation and strategy of the USA to counter China’s growing economic and military weight in the region.
Although China is the biggest buyer of Australia’s exports, there have been trade frictions between the two recently. And Australia also raised China’s hackles 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.
Australia India military and logistics support pact is signed at a time when China and India are engaged in a bitter standoff at Ladakh region. Lt. General level talks are scheduled to be held on June 6 as field level talks failed to resolve the situation. Reports say that Chinese military has advanced in various parts of the region and crossed LAC to camp in areas claimed by India.
According to a report by The Hindu India is prepared to expand the Malabar trilateral naval exercise involving India, the U.S. and Japan, to also include Australia, defence officials told The Hindu. While a decision on whether to extend the invitation is expected “soon”, the officials said, it was unlikely to be announced during Thursday’s “virtual summit” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
The inclusion of Australia in the Malabar exercise would be a major shift from the past for India’s Indo-Pacific plans.
Notably, Malabar began as a bilateral naval exercise between India and the U.S. in 1992 and was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015. Since 2016, Australia has made repeated requests to join the exercises, and in January 2018, the then Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull had said the talks on Malabar were “progressing well”. However, India did not include Australia in the exercises in 2018 and 2019, continuing instead to grow the bilateral AUSINDEX naval and other military exercises.
According to EurAsian Times, if India does formally invite Australia, “it could reshape the Indo-Pacific region” and “could cement the QUAD Alliance” which Beijing considers as an anti-China grouping.
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Related Topics: Australia, India-Australia Relations, Indian Politics, Indian State, Indo-China Border Dispute, Indo-China Relations, Ladakh 2020 Standoff Between China and India, Narendra Modi Led BJP Government in India (2019-2024)