India-Australia Relations


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

India and Australia strengthen ties in the face of a rising China​

Is the India - Australia relationship even more important than the Quad?

China is increasing its regional ambitions in the Indo-Pacific, prompting a re-ignition of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the US, India, Japan and Australia.

Critics question India's capacity to handle China but Quad expert Rory Medcalf disagrees. He says that India's capabilities should not be under-estimated, as proven in last year's border conflict.


Rory Medcalf, former diplomat, head of the National Security College at Canberra’s Australian National University and author of Indo-Pacific Empire: China, America and the contest for the world's pivotal region


Despite India and Australia's complex past, the two nations benefit greatly from their relationship, both strategically and ideologically.

Scholar Hash Pant says that it goes beyond that, and that the whole region stands to gain from negotiations between Canberra and New Delhi.


Harsh Pant, professor of international relations with King’s College, London and author of 'The View from India' in the current edition of Australian Foreign Affairs


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Australia’s special envoy Tony Abbott coming to speed up FTA, will visit Delhi, Mumbai​

Eyeing interim pact by Christmas​

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is presently serving as Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s special trade envoy for India, is likely to visit the country later this week on a three-day tour to meet trade officials and businesses and take stock of the bilateral Free Trade Agreement under negotiations.
The two countries are chasing a time-line of reaching an agreement on a early harvest package, or an interim free trade pact, by Christmas.

“As per plans, Abbott will be in India on December 1-3 and will visit Delhi and Mumbai,” an official tracking the visit told BusinessLine.​

In September, Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and his Australian counterpart, Dan Tehan, decided to conclude an interim or early harvest FTA by Christmas, which would pave the way for a full-fledged Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in 2022.

Inter-Ministerial talks on​

“The Australians want the interim pact to cover most areas that have been identified for the final CECA. It would not be possible to take on deep commitments in most at this stage. Inter-Ministerial consultations in India are still on in the areas of goods and services,” the source said. If the two sides are not able to meet the December-end deadline, all attempts would be made to formalise the interim trade pact by early next year, the source added.

CECA negotiations​

Areas that are to be covered under the bilateral CECA include goods market access, rule of origin, non-tariff barriers to trade in goods (including technical barriers and customs issues), cross-border trade in services, financial services, investment including investor-state dispute settlement, government procurement, intellectual property, including geographical indications, movement of persons, competition policy and sustainable development.
The decision to re-engage on CECA negotiations, which got suspended in 2015, was taken by Prime Minister Narandra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in June last year as part of the joint statement on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

‘Fresh perspective’​

Tehan, during his visit to India in September, said that he and Goyal were bringing “fresh eyes and fresh perspective” into the negotiations. It is possible that Australia may not make stiff demands in sensitive areas such as agriculture and dairy as it was one of the reasons for a stand-off in the negotiations the last time round.

Propelled by diverse sectors such as coal and international education, India was Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner and sixth-largest export market in 2020, according to the Australian government. India’s total trade with Australia in 2020-21 was $12.29 billion.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

India, Australia hold talks to further expand bilateral ties through Free Trade Agreement​

New Delhi [India], December 2 (ANI): Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal on Thursday met Australian Prime Minister's Special Trade Envoy Tony Abbott and had an extensive discussion on the ways to expand bilateral ties.
Taking to Twitter, Goyal said there is a huge potential for India and Australia to further energise their trade relationship through Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

"Met with @HonTonyAbbott, Special Trade Envoy of the Prime Minister of Australia. Had an extensive discussion on the huge potential IndiaAustralia have to further energiseexpand our bilateral ties through Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for mutual economic prosperity," Union Minister Goyal tweeted.

In September, India and Australia had announced that they will sign a comprehensive Free Trade agreement by the end of 2022 and an early harvest trade deal by Christmas later this year.

The announcement was made at a joint media briefing with Commerce and Industry Minister Goyal and the Australian Minister Abbott, during the latter's visit to India. (ANI)


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Australia, India and the Indo-Pacific: The need for strategic imagination​

Thank you, Minister, for your generous introduction.

Let me begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which the Lowy Institute stands, the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

Let me also take this opportunity to express my sadness on the tragic death earlier this month of the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife and his colleagues from the Indian Armed Forces.

I was grateful to receive the invitation to give this lecture from India’s External Affairs Minister. I have known Dr Jaishankar for a long time. I called on him when he was posted in Beijing and Washington and kept in touch with him during his periods as Foreign Secretary and Minister. I have long admired his intellect and sagacity.

And I am honoured to give a lecture named after a statesman of the quality of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

We often bemoan today’s two-dimensional politicians. But Prime Minister Vajpayee was a poet as well as a politician. He was a leader with a hinterland.

Both as external affairs minister and prime minister, his statecraft was creative and imaginative. In his overtures to competitors and adversaries, his belief in the relationship between India and the United States, and his determination to ‘Look East’, Prime Minister Vajpayee showed a willingness to shrug off the habits of the past and seek new friends and new ways of doing things.

I would like to take this concept of strategic imagination as my theme for this lecture.

Like many Commonwealth politicians, Prime Minister Vajpayee had a close association with cricket. And by the way, how many Australian PMs would like to have a 50,000-seat cricket stadium named after them?

Cricket is on my mind today, because the Third Test in this year’s Ashes series starts on Boxing Day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

I have attended many diplomatic receptions, but few can rival the State Dinner for Prime Minister Modi, held in 2014 at the MCG, in the presence of Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and many others. It was a stroke of genius to hold such an important diplomatic occasion at a temple to cricket like the MCG.

The game of cricket is, in many ways, similar to the great game of relations between states – and it contains important lessons for the foreign policies of both India and Australia as we navigate the evolving strategic circumstances of the Indo-Pacific.

Like foreign policy, cricket is a long game. A Test match can take up to five days (although not when Australia plays England at the Gabba!). Things are opaque in cricket, as in diplomacy: sometimes a draw can be a win.

Cricket and foreign policy require many of the same qualities: intelligence, skill, patience, discipline, toughness – and imagination.

The most successful cricket captains are creative – they set imaginative fields, surprise their opponents with unexpected bowling changes, and lead from the front with the bat. Imagination is key.

The weather conditions and the state of the pitch are also critical. In foreign policy, too, the decision-making environment is fast and fluid. That is certainly the case today.

In 1991, the United States’ only rival for global leadership, the Soviet Union, conceded defeat, and the world switched from a bipolar system to a unipolar one. The hegemony over the West that was achieved by the United States during the Cold War became the new world order.

The only option available to Russia and China was to become stakeholders in this enterprise – if they promised to be responsible stakeholders. A liberal international order settled over the world. Or so we thought.

Now, three decades on, the scales have fallen from our eyes. The contests between nation-states and between ideologies have resumed. Cooperation between great powers is declining, not increasing. Unipolarity has given way to multipolarity. Geopolitics has returned. Every day, the liberal international order becomes less liberal, less international and less orderly.

The other big global change is that wealth and power are shifting eastwards, towards India and Australia. Impressive Asian economic growth in recent decades has transformed the region and lifted more than a billion people out of poverty.

Emerging Asia is the most dynamic part of the world, accounting for more than half of global growth despite representing only a third of the global economy.[1]

China’s economic rise has been phenomenal. Decades of rapid economic growth have pulled nearly 700 million Chinese people above the poverty line. China is the world’s second largest economy and it is likely to be the largest by the end of the decade. It is already the world’s largest trading nation and the largest trading partner of most Asian countries, including Australia.

Of course, India’s economic rise is also an important part of this Asian success story. Thirty years ago, before India set out on the path of liberalisation and reform, its economy formed just a tiny fraction of the global economy. Today, India has the world’s seventh largest economy. The average Indian citizen today is more than three times richer than she was in 1990.[2]

For a country such as Australia, with an economy that is so interconnected with Asia’s economies, the changes in China and India, as well as in Southeast Asia, create tremendous opportunities.

But if the economic outlook in Asia is positive, the security outlook is not. We are heading towards a prolonged period of bipolar competition in the Indo-Pacific.

Both the United States and China have exhibited troubling behaviour over the past decade.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Australia’s alliance with the United States.

Our interests are served when the United States is well governed, cohesive, attractive to the world, and strong enough to deter bad behaviour by adversaries. Under Donald Trump’s presidency, the United States was, in my opinion, poorly governed, divided, unappealing to the world, and weak – which left all of us vulnerable to malign actors.

On foreign policy, Mr Trump’s actions ran counter to Australians’ instincts. Australians are alliance believers; Mr Trump thought allies were scroungers. Australians are inclined towards internationalism; Mr Trump was sympathetic to isolationism. Australia is a trading nation; Mr Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and attacked the World Trade Organization.

Joe Biden is not a perfect president. But today we can say that the president of the United States is a decent person. That was not the case for four years. The Biden administration has got off to a good start, marked by more effective governance at home and more adroit alliance management abroad. America, in other words, is back.

If Washington’s international stance over the past decade has been changeable, Beijing’s has been consistent – and increasingly concerning.

Since the accession of President Xi Jinping in 2012, China has become much more aggressive in the waters to its east and west, and in its relations with other states. Australia is an extreme case.

Seven years ago, Xi Jinping addressed our Parliament to loud bipartisan applause. Now the two countries are at daggers drawn.

Analysts differ as to whose fault this is. In my view, the main reason why our relationship with China has changed is that China has changed. Its foreign policies have hardened; the constraints on people within China have tightened; its willingness to accept criticism has disappeared.

Australia has taken steps to protect its sovereignty, including banning Huawei and other high-risk vendors from participating in our 5G rollout, and introducing new foreign interference laws.

For the Chinese, Australia’s call last year for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic was just the latest provocation. Seen from our perspective, all our actions were just reactions to Chinese moves.

China has had Australia in the diplomatic deep freeze for some time. It has imposed sanctions on many of our exports, including barley, wine, seafood, cotton, timber, beef and coal.

Of course, Indians have also become increasingly familiar with China’s newfound assertiveness, for which Indian soldiers have paid with their lives.

Australian public opinion towards China has hardened in tandem with Chinese behaviour. The 2021 Lowy Institute Poll found that, for the first time, more Australians see China as a security threat than an economic partner. Trust in China has fallen precipitously, with only 16 per cent of Australians saying they trust China ‘a great deal’ or ‘somewhat’ to act responsibly in the world, down from 52 per cent three years ago.[3]

I agree with the broad thrust of Australia’s approach to China. That doesn’t mean that I am uncritical. Diplomacy requires guile as well as steadfastness. In my view, we have not always been as artful as we might have been. Sometimes Australian ministers and parliamentarians have strayed beyond protecting our sovereignty and our core interests, and allowed indiscipline to creep into their public comments. But the chief responsibility for the current state of affairs lies with the men in Zhongnanhai.

The fluctuations in US policy, and the severity of Chinese behaviour, is prompting three important developments in Indo-Pacific security.

First, a number of regional powers are adopting a larger view of their own potential and seeking to increase their freedom of movement. After all, no one wants to live in another country’s shadow.

I have been very impressed by the steps taken by the Indian government to protect its sovereignty and adopt a flexible foreign policy suited to the times, including an upgraded relationship with the United States and membership of important new institutional arrangements such as the Quad.

In Australia’s case, we have bolstered our internal resilience, increased our defence spending and, most recently, entered into a new defence pact with the United States and the United Kingdom, AUKUS, which promises closer military and scientific ties between the three countries and the development of a nuclear-powered Australian submarine fleet.

After the fall of Kabul in August, many observers of US foreign policy concluded that America had lost interest in its allies, and that its allies had lost faith in America. The announcement of AUKUS in September served as a powerful rebuttal of both arguments.

With AUKUS, Australia is doubling down on its alliance with the United States while also drawing the United Kingdom more deeply into the Indo-Pacific. This is an ambitious step for Australia, a signal that the country intends to shape its external environment and contribute to the regional balance of power. Nuclear-powered submarines provide immense capability in terms of lethality, speed, range and stealth. Presuming these boats are eventually built, they will give Australia significant deterrent power.

AUKUS is not just about submarines, however. It is also about technology sharing, cyber capabilities and artificial intelligence. It reminds me of something that Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in 1940, when the United States provided Britain with destroyers in exchange for access to naval bases. Churchill said that the two countries “will have to be somewhat mixed-up together in some of their affairs for mutual and general advantage.”[4]

I suspect that in the face of new challenges, we will once again see like-minded countries getting more “mixed-up together”.

Second, there have been important institutional developments in the Indo-Pacific, foremost among them President Biden’s elevation of the Quad to the leaders’ level.

In his 2021 Lowy Lecture, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan described the Quad as an example of the new “latticework” of institutional arrangements. Whereas Dean Acheson’s generation of policymakers built the Parthenon, with its columns of the UN, NATO, the IMF and the World Bank, Jake argued that today’s arrangements are “more flexible, ad hoc, more political than legal, sometimes more temporary than permanent.”

In this sense, Jake told me, the architecture of international cooperation is acquiring “more of a Frank Gehry character than the formal Greek architecture of the post-war era.”[5]

And indeed, the first in-person Quad leaders’ meeting, held in the East Room of the White House in September, was every bit as eye-catching as Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

It was a tremendous thing to see the leaders of four highly capable Indo-Pacific democracies come together to progress a positive agenda of cooperation.

Let me take this opportunity to compliment India for its remarkable work as the manufacturing hub of the Quad Vaccine Partnership.

The Quad is a reminder for Australians that we must increase our investment in diplomacy as well as defence – and in new relationships as well as old ones.

For Australia, the Anglosphere is necessary, but certainly not sufficient. As a matter of urgency, we need to thicken our links with other Indo-Pacific powers, including Japan, South Korea, Indonesia – and India.

The strengthening of bilateral relationships between like-minded countries is the third major Indo-Pacific development I want to mention today.

The relationship between New Delhi and Canberra has the character of a long innings at the crease. We started off slowly, but now that we have settled in, we’re taking our shots and the runs are flowing.

One year ago, when I interviewed Dr Jaishankar for a Lowy Institute event, he told me: “If there is one relationship I take great satisfaction in, it is the India–Australia relationship.”

Today, our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership encompasses regular meetings of prime ministers, foreign ministers and defence ministers, as well as military exercises and military-to-military contacts.[6]

I was pleased to see Prime Minister Scott Morrison announce last month the establishment of a new Australian Consulate-General in Bengaluru, as well as a centre of excellence to deepen our collaboration on science and technology.

I would like us to be even more ambitious. The latest edition of the Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index – a data-driven annual assessment that measures national resources and international influence to rank the relative power of Indo-Pacific states – indicates that neither the United States nor China will be able to exert undisputed primacy in our region. A bipolar future beckons.

In this future, the decisions made by other Indo-Pacific powers, including India and Australia, will be highly consequential. Our actions may well constitute the marginal difference. Countries such as ours have the means to influence the regional balance of power – and a clear interest in doing so. But we will need to step up.[7]

My challenge to the decision-makers on Raisina Hill in New Delhi and Capital Hill in Canberra, therefore, is to look for practical and imaginative new ways that India and Australia can strengthen our bilateral relationship and together contribute to stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

Let me make some suggestions. I believe we should:
  • Establish a high-level Strategic Economic Dialogue between Australia and India;
  • Improve the interoperability between the Australian Defence Force and the Indian Armed Forces, especially in the area of maritime domain awareness;
  • Increase the level of consultation and information-sharing between our diplomats and our intelligence services;
  • Cooperate on infrastructure financing in Southeast Asia, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean region; and
  • Reinvigorate our trilateral partnerships with Indonesia and Japan.
Of course, international relations are driven by economics. And the run rate in the economic relationship between India and Australia is much slower than it should be.

People-to-people links are very strong. Today, more Australians were born in India than in any other foreign country save for England.[8] Yet despite India’s immense market size, only about three per cent of Australia’s goods exports go to India, and this is almost entirely made up of coal. And India does not make the ‘top 20’ countries as either a source or a recipient of foreign investment.[9]

As Australia’s former High Commissioner to India and Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese, said in his India Economic Strategy report: “Australian business has long put India in the ‘too hard’ basket.”[10] This needs to change.

The dismantling of the misconceived ‘Fortress Australia’ approach to Covid-19, and the recent reopening of Australia’s borders to international students and skilled migrants, will re-energise our ties.

I also welcome the news that our two governments have re-launched negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, with talk of an initial agreement before the end of the year.

Australian governments and businesses must lift their game, therefore, but so must Indian governments and businesses. Australian firms still find India a difficult place to do business. Further reforms are desirable in areas such as labour markets, the financial sector and the legal system. And I would like to see the Indian government take a more positive and ambitious approach to trade liberalisation.

Countries such as India and Australia have the wherewithal to help shape Asia’s future. But we need to believe in ourselves – and in each other.

The good news is that our publics already do. The 2021 Lowy Institute Poll revealed that six out of ten Australians trust India either ‘a great deal’ or ‘somewhat’, which represents a remarkable increase of 16 points in a single year. This puts India on par with Australians’ level of trust in our principal ally, the United States.

In the 2021 Observer Research Foundation Foreign Policy Survey, two-thirds of young Indians said they trust Australia either ‘completely’ or ‘somewhat’, second only to their trust in the United States. And six in ten respondents said that Australia will be one of India’s leading partners in the next ten years, again second only to the United States.[11]

These are strikingly complementary results – and all the more welcome for that fact.

Now it is for policymakers to match the foresight of their peoples.

Ladies and gentlemen: We live in a time of great strategic flux. I’m confident that Australia and India can help determine the complexion of the game – if we have the strategic imagination to do so. We should be unafraid to seek to shape our environment, trusting in our own abilities and in each other, and knowing that providence favours those who help themselves.

I hope that, like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India and Australia decide to think big.

Thank you.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Securing Two Oceans: Bolstering India-Australia Defence Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific​

Countries such as India and Australia are redefining their Indo-Pacific policies amidst the growing belligerence of China in the region. The two have a common interest in stability, while standing firmly against any militarisation. Their willingness to partner closely with like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific lays the foundation for stronger defence and security cooperation between the two middle-power democracies and Indian Ocean littorals. This paper offers policy proposals and explores opportunities for stronger defence cooperation between India and Australia. Engagement between the two countries can include increasing bilateral and minilateral dialogues and consultation mechanisms; improving interoperability in the maritime, air, ground, and cyber domains; and deepening defence cooperation and technology collaboration.
Attribution: Premesha Saha and Angad Singh, “Securing Two Oceans: Bolstering India-Australia Defence Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” ORF Occasional Paper No. 346, January 2022, Observer Research Foundation.


The aim of ensuring a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ is dominating the foreign-policy agendas of many countries, including the United States (US), Japan, Australia, and India. Concerns are heightening amidst Chinese actions: extensive military modernisation; growing assertiveness in pursuing maritime territorial claims and controlling international or disputed waters; deployment of military assets on artificial islands in the South China Sea; use of coercive diplomatic and economic measures to suppress international criticism; and expansion of global presence.[1]

At the same time, the Indo-Pacific region provides numerous opportunities for stakeholders to strengthen cooperation. These opportunities lie in various domains such as economic, defence and security, cyberspace, and technology.

Australia, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, and India are engaging in a balancing act in the current setting—i.e., maintaining their allegiance and partnerships with the US, while strengthening their bilateral ties with one another. The Indo-Pacific construct is also gaining acceptance among countries such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom (UK), and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Over the past decade, many Indo-Pacific countries have increased their defence spending in response to the changing security environment. Many of these nations are also seeking to strengthen existing strategic relationships and to develop new ones. The US, Japan, Australia, and India are among the most active in this regard.[2] The Quad, and the AUKUS (Australia, UK, US) security partnership both demonstrate this point.

India and Australia’s Evolving Priorities in the Indo-Pacific

This section outlines the respective Indo-Pacific visions and strategies of India and Australia. Their strategies, in turn, are leading them to bolster their security capacities through enhanced defence acquisitions and spending, as well as strengthening existing defence cooperation.
The Indo-Pacific construct has gained currency in the foreign policy formulation of both countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has articulated a vision of a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific. India has engaged Russia, Japan, Australia, and other Indo-Pacific countries in light of the growing uncertainties in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as the evolving potential of minilateral and bilateral frameworks.[3]

For Australia, the country’s geography and its broader interests are at the core of its Indo-Pacific strategy.[4] Situated between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, it is increasingly viewing itself as deeply embedded in the Indo-Pacific region. It is responding to increasing geopolitical uncertainty in the region by maintaining a strong alliance with the US, increasing defence spending, purchasing key combat systems from various suppliers, and nurturing strategic partnerships with Japan, India, and other countries. Australia has also announced its 2020 Defence Strategic Update—an AU$270 billion (US$190 billion) 10-year defence plan which Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls a “significant pivot.” This was the first time Australia included land, sea, and air-based long-range and hypersonic strike missiles in its defence plan. This, amidst regional tensions over territorial claims and unprecedented military modernisation.[5]

To be sure, there are differences in how the two nations regard the “Indo” half of the construct. Australia specifically identifies the north-eastern quadrant of the ocean as its priority area of interest; India’s primary strategic theatre, meanwhile, is the entirety of the ocean, including its western reaches.

While Australia’s interest in the Southwest Pacific (SWP) is well understood, the region is also growing in India’s strategic calculations.

Consequently, Australia will be an essential partner for India in the SWP, as the former is the predominant power in the region. Similarly, Australia will need to engage more deeply with India for the Northeast Indian Ocean to have a sustainable Australian presence. Given these realities, it is only expected that Australia and India step up their strategic cooperation through enhanced bilateral engagement.

Enhancing Strategic Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

Ties between India and Australia have deepened in recent years (see Table 1). The positive growth in bilateral ties, however, requires more push and buy-in from policymakers in both New Delhi and Canberra. Until recently, the relationship between India and Australia was relatively lukewarm. Each had their bilateral ties with major powers, which seemed sufficient. Recent geopolitical developments in the Indo-Pacific have also given rise to a growing mutual realisation that they must diversify their relationships. Yet, their geostrategic and geopolitical projections coincide with one another, given Australia’s focus on the Indian Ocean. There is an overlap in the Indo-Pacific regional visions of the two countries.

Australia’s efforts to develop broader security cooperation relationships is visible in the AUSINDEX exercise between Australia and India, the Indo-Pacific Endeavour naval deployment (which visited India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam), as well as the inclusion of Japan in the US-Australia Talisman Sabre exercise, for the first time, in 2019. Increasing high-level visits and joint military exercises between Australia and India highlight common concerns about the Indo-Pacific strategic order.[6]

Indeed, India has been strengthening ties with its partners in the Indo-Pacific region. This was seen when India signed the Shared Vision Statement of India-Indonesia Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific during PM Modi’s first visit to Indonesia in May 2018.[7] The first bilateral naval exercise between India and Indonesia—named Samudra Shakti—was conducted in 2018, and the first India-Singapore-Thailand naval exercise took place in September 2019. The Indian Navy has also conducted maiden bilateral exercises with Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. India and Japan also concluded the much-anticipated Mutual Logistics Pact for their Navies.[8] India has reached out to a number of countries, including Australia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, to fast-track PM Modi’s “Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative”, which is an open global initiative that draws on existing regional cooperation architectures and mechanisms to focus on seven pillars around maritime security: maritime ecology; maritime resources; capacity-building and resource-sharing; disaster risk reduction and management; science, technology, and academic cooperation; and trade connectivity and maritime transport.[9]

India and Australia have also signed a Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, as India is ready to embark on a more proactive role in ensuring maritime security in the region. It was signed during the first virtual summit between prime ministers Modi and Morrison in June 2020.[10] Australia participated in the 2020 Malabar exercises alongside Japan, the US, and India.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has created the ‘Oceania division’, which is expected to focus on Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Island countries.[11] Australia will likely be the primary focus of this division. Australia is also keen to work and partner with India in its Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative. Therefore, the time is opportune for stronger cooperation and alignment between India and Australia to boost regional stability and provide strategic benefits for both nations.

Beyond their bilateral relationship, India and Australia are also intensifying their engagement in a growing number of minilateral and plurilateral platforms. These include the Quad, the India-Australia-Indonesia trilateral, and the Japan-Australia-India trilateral.
Both countries therefore appear keen in supporting and shaping the increasingly multipolar Indo-Pacific order. With the US-China geostrategic competition escalating, it is upon the rising and middle powers of the region to ensure peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
Table 1: High-Level Meetings and Their Outcomes

Source: Authors’ own, using various sources.

Security Cooperation: Shaky Start, But Progressing

In recent years, rapid progress in India-Australia defence ties was facilitated by an assertive government in New Delhi and several key bilateral breakthroughs, including an agreement on uranium supplies from Australia.[12] In November 2014, only months into PM Modi’s first term, the two countries signed a bilateral framework for security cooperation.[13] In interviews, senior Indian military officials noted that although Australian cooperation commenced slowly, it has outpaced all other bilateral relationships in the past five years.

Naval exercises since the first AUSINDEX in 2015 have grown in scale and scope, as has cooperation between the armies and air forces (see Table 2). Exercise AUSTRAHIND commenced in 2016, and the Indian Air Force (IAF) participated as an observer in exercise PITCH BLACK in the same year. Various multilateral exercises in India, Australia, and third countries, also ensured that the two militaries were increasingly engaged beyond the staff-level talks underway since Quad 1.0.

Table 2: Key India-Australia Military Exercises
Source: Authors’ own, using various sources
New Delhi’s growing recognition of the necessity of burden-sharing in the Indo-Pacific has pushed it to engage in constructive and tangible terms with its security partners. This has led to the negotiation of various agreements on logistics, communications, and other related matters, with Indo-Pacific powers, including the US, Japan, Australia, and France.

With past diffidence receding, the revival of the Quad concept in late 2017 was more optimistic. Quad Navy Chiefs took the stage at the 2018 Raisina Dialogue in Delhi, thereby emphasising the security dimension of the grouping.[14] In the same year, the IAF made a rare visit to foreign shores by visiting Australia to participate in the exercise PITCH BLACK.[15] This was noteworthy, not only for the aerial refuelling assistance the host country provided to Indian Su-30MKI fighters in their transit,[16] but also due to the fact that the IAF was joining a high-end multilateral air exercise (while its typical preference is for smaller bilateral exercises). This was a key indicator of both nations’ confidence in their air force ties and the broader defence relationship.

The resumption of the Quad is in no small part anchored on the renewed trust between Australia and India. Ministerial-level Quad meetings have taken place annually since 2019, with an uptick in bilateral ties among the four partners. Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update[17] confirms its willingness to partner closely with like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region. This has gone a long way in allaying Indian apprehensions over having Australia as a security partner.[18]

The bilateral relationship, propelled by Australia’s own China challenges, as well as plurilateral engagement under the Quad, reached a new peak in 2020-2021. A virtual summit in June 2020 saw ties elevated to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’, and the signing of a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and a Defence Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement.[19] The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) also joined that year’s MALABAR naval exercise, turning it into the first ‘Quad exercise’ since 2007. In February 2021, a RAN officer was formally posted to the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre -Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) in Gurgaon near the capital, marking an important milestone in formalised information-sharing between the two countries.[20]

Today the India-Australia defence relationship encompasses almost every facet of military cooperation, including: high-level strategic dialogues; regional coordination; information-sharing; increasingly complex land, sea and air exercises; defence industry engagement; personnel exchanges; and scientific and technology cooperation.

Policy Recommendations

India and Australia have different military, diplomatic, technological, and legal capabilities and capacities. This is not to say that either country is necessarily lacking in any specific area, but that their respective strategic imperatives and force structure/posture lead to divergences in certain domains. However, this also means that a wide array of opportunities is available to both nations to enhance engagement; improve interoperability in the maritime, air, ground, and cyber domains; and deepen defence cooperation, including defence technology collaboration.
While national security is a “whole of government” effort in all countries, disaggregating economic and military power is a challenge. For the purposes of this paper, the economic health and viability of India, Australia, and the principal states in the region must be assumed to be relatively stable and moving toward a post-COVID recovery in line with global estimates.

Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge that China’s coercive statecraft blurs the distinction between war and peace, for instance via ‘salami slicing’ tactics below an adversary’s threshold of military response. Countering this and achieving influence to counter China will be key to any defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

High-level requirements to counter China should guide the collaboration between India, Australia and key partners, and influence their decision-making. Further, cost-effective military cooperation will lower unilateral costs and allow for increased burden-sharing, while raising military costs for China. Meanwhile, economic ties will play a part in imposing political and economic costs on Beijing. However, these will also require a recalibration of conventional security thought in New Delhi and Canberra. India will certainly have to re-orient from a border-focused continental military to a more expeditionary air and sea force structure to counter harmful Chinese actions.

With the signing of the Mutual Logistics Sharing Agreement (MLSA) in June 2020, it is important to address the impact of nascent agreements and joint exercises. Further, the policies needed to bolster defence cooperation, interoperability, and regional security over the short, medium and long term, also need to be highlighted. Most importantly, the effect of security cooperation between Australia and India on regional security in the Indo-Pacific and how this cooperative framework can bring other like-minded countries within its fold, needs to be understood.

By developing “task-oriented” policy proposals, centred on common regional challenges, the objective is to encourage both countries to devote more energy and investment in the security realm to help manage the changing regional order in the Indo-Pacific. It also aims to generate a sense of burden-sharing, as well as reciprocity, without overloading governments and militaries that already face significant constraints.
This paper’s proposals are under two broad lenses: bilateral (India-Australia); and existing minilateral platforms of which the two countries are already participants, such as the Quad, India-Australia-Indonesia, and Japan-Australia-India trilateral.

Though there are multilateral forums in which India and Australia participate, the authors are giving preference to minilateral platforms, as the principal issue impinging the working of larger multilateral bodies is that consensus-building remains next to impossible except in the broadest of terms. A great number of voices make it harder to find consensus on specific issues that are not of immediate concern. These platforms become ‘talk shops’ without being able to generate concrete solutions.

This helps understand the growing salience of minilaterals and bilaterals in the region. Minilaterals also help in bolstering bilateral relations, such as the Quad helping revamp India-Australia relations, which was the weakest link in that arrangement. The India-Australia-Indonesia trilateral, which was carried by incumbent Indonesia-Australia relations, also helped strengthen ties between India-Australia, and between India-Indonesia. Minilaterals do have sceptics, and indeed the Quad did once falter, and had to be revived to its present state. Nevertheless, the example of the Quad itself shows that it and similar groupings have potential, as evidenced by Chinese reactions to any and all Quad initiatives, including the March 2021 summit and the Quad’s COVID-19 vaccine proposal.[21]

Defence Spending

In the Financial Year 2020-21 (FY 2021), India earmarked approximately 24 percent of its defence budget for capital acquisitions (approximately USD 15.6 billion).[22] In February 2021, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh stated that India plans to spend about USD 130 billion on defence modernisation “over the next 7-8 years,”[23] which is approximately USD 185 billion spent over the decade, assuming no significant fluctuations in defence funding.

Meanwhile, Australia allocated 34 percent of its budget (approximately USD 11 billion) to capital procurement[24] in FY 2021. In July 2020, PM Morrison pledged to spend AUD 270 billion (approximately USD 186 billion) on defence over the coming decade.[25]

Despite the Australian defence budget being approximately half of that of India’s, Canberra’s spending on acquisitions is not considerably lesser than New Delhi’s. Regardless of India’s imperatives to reform its capital-to-revenue spending ratio, the similarity in acquisition budgets and focus of both countries on the China challenge is a positive factor in the near term as it could allow for a better dovetailing of capability accretion, and alignment of acquisition priorities on both sides. However, challenges will remain beyond the acquisition landscape, as the two countries approach defence very differently.

With regard to force organisation, Australia has a mobile, expeditionary military posture, while India struggles to move past its continental military mindset. Moreover, bilateral and multilateral military cooperation pays off on longer time horizons, while the military and political leadership, particularly in New Delhi, tend to focus on near-term border issues with China and Pakistan. Incremental collaborative initiatives in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and Indo-Pacific will be key to easing India’s diffidence toward a more expeditionary military posture. As a strong network of regional partnerships forms, the rationale for continuing to explore military options farther from home will become more apparent to India’s political and military leadership.

Cooperation in the Operational Domain

It is important to note that while the proposed recommendations in the operational domain reflect that India-Australia military cooperation will be mainly related to the air and sea domains, a degree of flux in Indian military organisation must be considered. The establishment of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) under the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) put in motion a range of proposals, including a move toward joint theatre commands. As such, the planned Maritime Theatre Command (MTC) will become the principal vector for military cooperation in the IOR and Indo-Pacific.

Though this will not change the contours of the envisaged cooperation itself, movement by the apex military leadership that will operationalise this — the theatre commander and air and maritime component commanders — will need to be accounted for as well.[26] Although the bilateral relationship may be naturally inclined toward maritime cooperation, a strategic partnership cannot be one-dimensional. In the near term, instructor exchanges and collaborations in capacity-building for third countries are activities that can proceed with relatively low bureaucratic friction and will lay the groundwork for deeper ties between the two armies.

The nascent logistics sharing pact can enable more frequent and increasingly large and complex joint exercises, including high-end tri-service multi-domain exercises, in addition to expanding existing training missions involving personnel and knowledge exchanges. Though the present MLSA is a broad agreement suited for case-specific scenarios, such as pre-planned exercises and deployments, it is not specific enough to allow for routine logistics support. For instance, it allows for deployment and support of P-8s by either country, given sufficient notice and bureaucratic action, but does not make such deployments routine in the sense of true interoperability. The ideal end goal is to operationalise MLSA so that exercises, cross-basing, frequent deployments, and joint operations become administratively routine.

Therefore, an implementing arrangement (IA) under MLSA (MLSA-IA) is required, ideally signed by the same political dispensation that secured the MLSA as it would certainly require additional political and diplomatic input. This would create standard operating procedures and cover granular issues, such as payment terms and means, local security, and liability, thereby removing the bureaucratic ‘overhead’ that remains under the current terms. A middle step in this process could see narrow IAs defined and agreed upon by both countries, including important near-term requirements such as aerial refuelling, underway replenishment at sea, and port and air base support for transiting warships and aircraft. These would then lay the groundwork for a single comprehensive IA, taking the MLSA to its logical end state, and enabling extended reach and true interoperability between the two regional forces.

Beyond the obvious benefits, an operationalising agreement for MLSA would have immense signalling value in the Indo-Pacific to allies and adversaries. It would indicate that India is not all talk and implements agreements swiftly, thus attracting more advances from friendly nations that might have otherwise been sceptical of India’s commitment to regional cooperation. It would also signal to China that there is a willingness among Indo-Pacific democracies to cooperate in real and meaningful terms. Thereafter, it is incumbent for both sides to keep MLSA alive through regular deployments, mutual logistics support, and visits. In the longer term, there is a need to move past exercises such as MALABAR, PITCH BLACK, AUSINDEX, and AUSTRAHIND, and towards more operationally-oriented training, such as on terrain representative of Indian border areas, the Pacific Islands, and around IOR chokepoints.

MLSA should also expand cooperation in areas where it is currently lacking, such as air power, particularly given the importance of the speed and reach of air power in the predominantly oceanic theatre, where Australian and Indian interests lie. As an example, after aerial refuelling, a routine administrative activity under an MLSA-IA, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) tankers could refuel Indian P-8Is, which presently cannot be refuelled by any Indian aircraft. Indian P-8I crews would also require training to undertake ‘flying boom’ refuelling operations, which the RAAF would be well placed to provide.

Australian over-water air operations, expertise in Antarctic support and sustainment, and proximity to Indian research stations offer another area of collaboration across domains and services. Another near-term opportunity is synergising the two countries’ strategic airlift capabilities through common platforms and concepts of operation, which will deliver practical benefits to the region and beyond during a range of emergent scenarios from armed conflict to natural disasters. Outreach opportunities that carry less diplomatic and political cost as compared to military operations, such as rescue, disaster relief, humanitarian aid, and more recently, vaccine distribution, are low-hanging fruits that can demonstrate the value of such cooperation.

Another issue with the MLSA is reciprocity. Australia has indicated a willingness to host Indian operations. India should offer similar facilities on the Indian mainland and its island territories. India and Australia could cooperate in capacity-building with third countries in the Indo-Pacific, with India taking the lead among IOR countries and Australia among Pacific Island nations. These activities could include port calls, senior official visits, training, and exercises in countries such as Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. Additionally, with the help of existing Indian military diplomatic outposts in the region, defence attachés representing Australia can be stationed at Indian Ocean littorals such as Comoros, Seychelles and Maldives. India could also encourage and facilitate agreements between Australia and other countries in the IOR to further secure an Australian foothold in the region.[27] The next development along these lines would be a Reciprocal Bases Agreement similar to the one that currently exists between Australia and Japan.


For an expanded defence relationship, classified information sharing is the next logical step. India-US defence ties and the ‘Foundational Agreements’ have followed a similar trajectory.[a] India and Australia have already made headway in information sharing, with an extant agreement on white shipping Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) and the posting of an Australian liaison officer at the IFC-IOR in India.
Creating a mechanism to share operationally relevant information, including on grey and dark shipping, with key Indo-Pacific partners would be the ideal extension of the MDA efforts already in place. More specific regional groupings could pursue this, such as the Quad, or other minilateral groupings, such as the India-Indonesia-Australia trilateral.

Tactical intelligence on the disposition of warships in the Indo-Pacific should not be particularly sensitive, as compared to underwater domain awareness (UDA). Owing to the US presence in the Indo-Pacific, the CENTRIX secure communications system is present and could possibly be utilised, but a separate secure communications system could also be explored to accommodate various national sensitivities.

Eventually, as these MDA initiatives foster greater trust and cooperation among friendly regional militaries, cooperation on UDA will also become increasingly viable. The principal hurdle is lack of a formal agreement on sharing this kind of classified information and, as in the case of MLSA, a robust framework within which to do so routinely. However, given that similar arrangements are already in place between India and the US, as well as India and France, it is clear that there is no in-principle opposition to information-sharing in New Delhi, thus creating fertile ground for a pact with Australia.

At a higher level, national intelligence agencies could pursue strategic intelligence sharing. In the long run, this could parlay into access to or inclusion in the Five Eyes alliance. Five Eyes is looking to expand and include within its fold third countries,[28] and there is a case for India’s inclusion under the Quad rubric. Here, the onus is on India to overcome its traditional reticence regarding intelligence cooperation and reciprocity.

Leveraging Platform Commonality​

The US ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific under the Obama administration, which was later termed ‘Rebalance to Asia’, centred on Darwin in Australia.[29] Despite domestic political upheaval, the US’s broad commitment to the Indo-Pacific and Australia has not changed under the Trump or Biden administration. This stability is an opportunity for India to be a part of this wider security cooperation, given the foundational agreements, particularly the logistics agreements, between the countries. However, US presence in the Indo-Pacific is not the only common link available.
Increasing equipment commonality between the Indian and Australian militaries can be leveraged for maintenance and logistics, with both countries operating a significant number of US-made C-17 and C-130 transports, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, and CH-47 and MH-60R helicopters. With Australia selecting the AH-64 Apache as its next attack helicopter, and India considering the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as its next naval fighter, the opportunities are only set to grow.[30]

Economies of scale dictate that the two countries can benefit from sharing work centres for expensive maintenance and overhaul activities on these platforms, making their deployment and employment more cost effective by effectively amortising fixed costs. Over time, this burden sharing will translate into greater industrial cooperation by way of shared supply chains, and perhaps even raw material sourcing from either country. For instance, Australia’s ambitious national naval shipbuilding enterprise could benefit from Indian steel or collaboration with Indian shipyards, which are currently producing everything from patrol boats to aircraft carriers.

Institutional Collaborations​

The long-delayed National Defence University (NDU) is an obvious opportunity for India to engage not only with Australia, but all its defence partners. Working with the Professional Military Education (PME) establishments of friendly militaries will ensure that NDU begins on a strong footing and continuing with personnel and instructor/faculty exchanges will be logical and self-reinforcing. Beyond this, expanding cooperation or instituting region-specific (e.g. IOR, Indo-Pacific) fellowships at universities, think tanks, and service academies, such as the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) and Army, Navy and Air Force War Colleges, specifically for Australia and other regional partners, will serve to create enduring defence and security links across the IOR and Indo-Pacific. These educational linkages between personnel will be essential in keeping defence cooperation on track, especially in the absence of resources and time required to implement many of the more ambitious regional opportunities.

Outside military officialdom, there are also opportunities for public and private universities, colleges, and think tanks to collaborate on defence and security issues. The MoUs between the University of Wollongong and Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) Kharagpur and Bombay[31] are important starting points. Further, University of Wollongong and Gujarat National Law University (GNLLU) could sign MoUs to research on international law, focusing on international maritime law and the Law of the Sea, as the pursuit for maintenance of a rules based order lies at the core of the Indo-Pacific concept.

Government and private think tanks should engage deeply with each other by institutionalising exchanges and engaging in Track 2 or Track 1.5 dialogues on a regular basis. Policy input and outcomes from these would be vital not only in accelerating defence cooperation, but maximising the value of its outcomes. Broad based engagements across these varied fronts will also serve to greatly reduce friction at the highest and most consequential levels by fostering a closer understanding of each other’s defence organisational systems.

Technology Cooperation​

A series of India-Australia defence research and development collaborations have already taken place over the years.[32] India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has hosted delegations from Australia in 2017 and a Joint Working Group on Defence Research and Materiel Cooperation between DRDO and Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) met in 2018.[33] In June 2020, India and Australia signed a Defence Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement,[34] providing a framework for defence cooperation between DRDO and DSTG. On the civilian front, India’s Department of Science and Technology and Australia’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science already have a history of cooperation.[35]

Moving forward, more government scientific agencies, state-owned and private industries, and academic institutes working on applied sciences, particularly focusing on the military domain, should collaborate with each other. Ensuring synergies across verticals will avoid missed opportunities, especially given the varying states of scientific research in both countries and the differing rules administering them. Despite recent engagement and the 2020 agreement, there is still a need to operationalise scientific cooperation by identifying specific areas and technologies for the two countries to explore in the short, medium, and long term.[36] Areas that can be explored in the near term include space, hypersonics, autonomous systems, underwater systems, and defence electronics.

Space is an emerging domain of strategic competition worldwide, yet remains under-developed in Australia. Improved ties with India are an opportunity to collaborate on military and civilian space programmes, including sharing infrastructure, technology, and technical know-how. India’s principal launch site at Sriharikota is close to the equator (at 13.7 degrees latitude),[37] providing reasonably high launch energies, and is similar to the best obtainable on Australian soil. A proposed site further south, at Kulasekarapattinam,[38] is ideal for polar orbits. India could provide preferential access to launches, launch vehicles, and launch sites until Australia is able to develop its own.[39] Serious and sustained cooperation on space in the long term would lead to closer cooperation on defence and security focused applications to space, including communications, intelligence, and surveillance.

Hypersonic technology is sure to emerge as a key defence capability of the future. India and Australia are exploring it and both countries are early enough in development to justify sharing the burden. Presently, US, Russia, China, France, Japan, India, and Australia are moving ahead with developing hypersonic missile technology and have demonstrated progress.[40] There is a narrow window of opportunity for collaboration and development of hypersonic technology, as the broader international community is yet to arrive at a consensus on hypersonic arms control. Nevertheless, such controls are certainly in the offing, with a 2017 RAND report suggesting an early non-proliferation regime that would essentially exclude all countries except the US, Russia, and China.[41] As with missiles or nuclear technology in the past, or emerging calls for controls on autonomous weapon systems,[42] there is a danger that India and Australia might be left out of the hypersonic race before it has had a chance to start. Mutually supportive collaborations will accelerate the pace of development in both countries and create considerable heft at multilateral negotiations.

Autonomous platforms and manned-unmanned teaming are areas of research in which both countries are presently working on similar requirements and technologies. Given the focus on UDA and ongoing work on unmanned surface and underwater vessels in both countries, combining of requirements and resources towards this end would allow for extraction of greater value through increased economies of scale in the development and fielding of these technologies. India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics unveiled an ambitious, albeit unfunded, Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) in February 2021, envisioning a range of autonomous air vehicles and effectors operating in conjunction with, or at the direction of, crewed combat aircraft of the Indian military.[43]

Meanwhile, Boeing Australia’s Airpower Teaming System (ATS) made a maiden flight on 27 February 2021, demonstrating a maturity in the loyal wingman concept unprecedented outside the US.[44] Importantly, the Boeing ATS will be relatively unencumbered by the onerous export controls of US-developed unmanned systems, rendering the system ripe for collaboration, and thereafter an export market larger even than India and Australia combined. As noted, with discussions on global restrictions on autonomous weapons commencing, the window to decide on act on these and other similar programmes is shrinking. It is also important to ensure active participation in ascertaining global non-proliferation regimes when the opportunity is presented.[45]

Working With Third Parties and Countries​

India tends to be different from other members of the Quad grouping, as the rest are formal allies. Of the Quad powers, Australia is the only true Indo-Pacific nation. Thus, Indo-Australian defence cooperation assumes particular salience, whether bilaterally or within the Quad and other similar multilateral arrangements, as a result of this geographical reality.

India and Australia can work towards military capacity building in third countries of common interest, such as Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and even Indian Ocean littorals such as Sri Lanka and Maldives. Work can happen in areas such as United Nations Peacekeeping Missions, HADR exercises which should not just involve the Navy but other agencies like the National Disaster Management Association (NDMA) and equivalent organisations in the other countries, low-end maritime training, anti-piracy operations, and patrols against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Joint Maritime Domain Awareness Initiatives can focus on the above mentioned areas. India and Australia can engage in defence exports, under lines of credit, to provide the necessary impetus to ASEAN countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. Examples of possible exports are supply patrol vessels and frigates.

Further, the bilateral air power strategy dialogue between India and Australia and trilateral maritime dialogues and exercise in conjunction with Indonesia can expand to include the other Quad countries. Commencing as a Track 1.5 dialogue, it can later include table top exercises and war games.

Beyond defence, capacity building in the third countries can also take place in the field of infrastructure connectivity, especially under the Indian initiative of Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), of which Australia is also a part,[46] International Solar Alliance,[47] and by aiding digital connectivity in small island states of the IOR and the South Pacific. This can be done under the banner of the Quad and/or US Blue Dot program.

India, Australia, France, and Indonesia can form an Indian Ocean Environment Security Forum, along the lines of the Pacific Ocean Environment Security Forum, funded by the US Indo-Pacific Command. This forum can work with the small island littoral countries of the IOR on issues such as disaster shipping, IUU fishing, capacity building for small island states, and climate change.[48] This can be a part of India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative. A HADR Coordination Mechanism already exists between Australia, New Zealand, and France for the Pacific Ocean. India, Australia, and Indonesia can develop a similar mechanism which focuses on the Indian Ocean.[49]


This paper proposes that India and Australia explore defence cooperation in the sectors of defence spending, operational domain, information sharing, leveraging platform commonality, institutional collaborations, technology cooperation, and working with third parties/countries. These can be achieved by way of the following:

    • Expanding cooperation in the operational domain by building on existing exercises and nascent logistics agreements to improve operational capabilities for both countries.
    • Moving towards greater information sharing, particularly of classified intelligence.
    • Better aligning of defence spending and leveraging equipment commonalities that have emerged and are emerging as the two countries modernise their militaries.
    • Cooperation in the domains of space and emerging technologies, such as hypersonics. Autonomous platforms and manned-unmanned teaming are further areas of research that could be jointly pursued, with both countries presently working on similar requirements and technologies.
    • In the longer term, true interoperability in the form of shared basing, Reciprocal Bases Agreement (such as between Australia and Japan), as well as development of joint bilateral or multilateral military institutions, such as a Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) centre in the Andamans or cooperative air and sea operations from the Christmas or Cocos (Keeling) Islands, should be explored.
    • India and Australia could cooperate in capacity building with third countries in the Indo-Pacific, with India taking the lead among IOR countries and Australia among Pacific Island nations.
Despite opportunities, India and Australia continue to have mismatched military, diplomatic, technological, and legal capabilities and capacities. As this paper has outlined, there is a wide array of opportunities available to both countries to give their defence partnership a stronger footing. It is imperative that India and Australia continue advancing their military cooperation, adopting new forms of collaboration and expanding existing ties. It will be important to ensure that the future defence relationship is robust across military domains and moves beyond its maritime core.

The challenge of securing and maintaining the rules-based order across two oceans emphasises the need for increased burden-sharing among like-minded powers in the region. Given the difficulties that the India-Australia defence relationship has faced in the past, both civilian and military leadership will need to be proactive in recognising and committing to the long-term security challenges facing both nations.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Trade Deal With India Will Open "Biggest Economic Doors": Australian PM​

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a trade agreement with India due to be signed on Saturday represented "one of the biggest economic doors there is to open in the world today".

Morrison is expected to call a general election within days, and has been eager to secure the trade deal before campaigning began, having been in negotiations with India for a decade.

The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement would be signed in a virtual ceremony by Trade Minister Dan Tehan and India's Minister of Commerce & Industry, Piyush Goyal, and both countries would continue to work towards a full free trade deal, the federal government said on Friday.

Speaking to reporters in Tasmania, Morrison said he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi would witness the virtual ceremony.

"These are never all or nothing deals as far as we're concerned, we see all of these as the next step and the next step and the next step," he said, expressing both countries intention to build closer trade ties.

Morrison's government is seeking to diversify export markets and reduce Australia's dependence on its biggest trading partner China, after diplomatic spats led to Beijing sanctioning certain Australian products.

The deal with India removes tariffs on more than 85% of Australian goods exports to India, worth A$12.6 billion, rising to almost 91% over 10 years.

Tariffs will be scrapped on sheep meat, wool, copper, coal, alumina, fresh Australian rock lobster, and some critical minerals and non-ferrous metals to India.

It will see 96 per cent of Indian goods imports enter Australia duty-free.

"Watershed Moment", Says PM Modi As India, Australia Sign Mega Trade Pact​

New Delhi:
The economic cooperation and trade agreement signed between India and Australia will enable the two countries to fully leverage the existing opportunities, besides facilitating the exchange of students, professionals and tourists, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today.

The India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (IndAus ECTA) was signed by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and his Australian counterpart Dan Tehan in the presence of Prime Minister Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a virtual ceremony.

PM Modi said signing of the pact in such a short span of time reflects the depth of the mutual confidence between the countries.

He also underlined the huge potential that exists in the two economies to fulfil each other's needs, adding that this agreement will enable the countries to fully leverage these opportunities.

"This is a watershed moment for our bilateral relations...On the basis of this agreement, together, we will be able to increase the resilience of supply chains, and also contribute to the stability of the Indo-Pacific region," PM Modi noted.

This agreement, he said, will also facilitate the exchange of students, professionals, and tourists between the two nations.

Terming the signing of the pact as another milestone in the growing relationship between India and Australia, Prime Minister Morrison said the agreement further develops on the promise of the relationship.

Apart from increased trade and economic cooperation, he said, the agreement will further deepen the "warm and close ties" between the people of the two countries by expanding work, study and travel opportunities.

The Australian Prime Minister said the agreement would create enormous trade diversification opportunities for domestic producers and service providers bound for India, valued at up to USD 14.8 billion each year.

"This agreement opens a big door into the world's fastest growing major economy for Australian farmers, manufacturers, producers and so many more," he said, adding by unlocking the huge market of around 1.4 billion consumers in India, "we are strengthening the economy and growing jobs right here at home".

Further, he said the agreement is great news for lobster fishers in Tasmania, wine producers in South Australia, macadamia farmers in Queensland, critical minerals miners in Western Australia, lamb farmers from New South Wales, wool producers from Victoria and metallic ore producers from the Northern Territory.

"This agreement has been built on our strong security partnership and our joint efforts in the Quad, which has created the opportunity for our economic relationship to advance to a new level," he noted.