India-Australia: Deepening ties

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Context: Recently, in the first-ever virtual bilateral summit between India-Australia the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement is signed to allow access to each other’s Military Bases for logistic support.

Prelims: Current events of national and international importance.

Mains: GS II

  • India and its neighborhood- relations. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.

  • The India-Australia bilateral relationship has undergone an evolution in recent years, developing along a positive track, into a friendly partnership. 
  • The two nations have much in common, underpinned by shared values of a pluralistic, Westminster-style democracy, Commonwealth traditions, expanding economic engagement, and increasing high-level interaction.
  • Several commonalities, including strong, vibrant, secular, and multicultural democracies, free press, the independent judicial system, and the English language, serve as a foundation for closer cooperation and multifaceted interaction.
  • Australia has joined now as a fellow traveler in our commitment to Disarmament, Global peace, North-South Dialogue, Human rights, Environmental protection, and combating International terrorism. 
  • The longstanding people-to-people ties, ever-increasing Indian students coming to Australia for higher education, growing tourism and sporting links, especially Cricket and Hockey, have played a significant role in further strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.
Historical ties
  • The historical ties between India and Australia started immediately following European settlement in Australia from 1788. 
  • India and Australia established diplomatic relations in the pre-Independence period, with the establishment of the India Trade Office in Sydney in 1941. 
  • The end of the Cold War and simultaneously India’s decision to launch major economic reforms in 1991 provided the first positive move towards the development of closer ties between the two nations. 
  • Trade and commercial links between the two nations began to develop and this economic cooperation has continued to deepen since the turn of the century. 
India-Australia Strategic Relationship
  • With the changing global scenario, Australia has come to look at India as an important partner in promoting regional security and stability, especially in Indo-Pacific.
  • This led to the upgradation of the bilateral relations between the two nations to a ‘Strategic Partnership’, including a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2009.
  • Over the years an array of institutional mechanism has been put in place to promote bilateral cooperation through a variety of machines such as exchange of high-level visits, Annual Meetings of Prime Ministers of both the countries, Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue, Joint Trade & Commerce Ministerial Commission, India-Australia '2+2' Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries Dialogue, Defence Policy Talks including Policy talks at the level of Senior Officials, Staff Talks, Energy Security Dialogue, and Australia-India Education Council.
  • The Australian foreign policy blueprint released in November 2017 sees India in the front rank of Australia’s international partnerships.
  • Australia strongly encourages India’s strategic engagement with East Asia and the United States.         

Indo-Pacific Region and its importance

What is Indo-Pacific?

  • Indo-Pacific”, originally a geographic concept that spans two regions of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, is not a new concept in itself.
  • 10 years ago, Gurpreet s. Khurana, who used the word” Indo-Pacific Strategy” for the first time in his article “Security of Sea Lines: Prospects for India-Japan Cooperation”.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later used it in his speech in the Indian Parliament to signify the confluence of Indian and Pacific oceans.
  • The Pentagon has already begun using the new term in the US official documents.
  • This is, in fact, a region in which several Asian powers are once again rising, especially in geo-economic terms.


Significance of Indo- Pacific region for India
  • India is planning to put greater energy to the IORA because the heart of its Indo-Pacific policy is rooted in the Indian Ocean. This integrates the blue economy part of the Indian policy with the security part.
  • In its Indo-Pacific diplomacy, India has repeatedly placed ASEAN at the center of its policy.
  • ASEAN by itself does not actually speak as a united entity, particularly when confronted by China’s overwhelming presence, for, while ASEAN is wary of China, it is equally wary of the US and its allies, preferring to keep the ASEAN region outside great power politics.
  • It is this that India wants to address and engage with Singapore, Vietnam and now Indonesia is key partners in the region for India. This will also involve the Quad and taking this new grouping to the region.


Areas of Cooperation in defense and security
  • Civil Nuclear Cooperation:
    • A Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the two countries was signed in September 2014 during the visit of then PM Tony Abbott to India.
    • The agreement provides the framework for substantial new trade-in energy between Australia and India.
    • The Australian Parliament passed the “Civil Nuclear Transfer to India Bill 2016” on 01 December 2016 which ensures that Uranium mining companies in Australia may fulfill contracts to supply Australian uranium to India for civil use with confidence that exports would not be hindered by domestic legal action challenging the consistency of the safeguards applied by the IAEA in India and Australia’s international non-proliferation obligations.
  • Defence Cooperation:
    • During the PM's visit to Australia in November 2014, both sides decided to extend defence cooperation to cover research, development, and industry engagement and agreed to hold regular meetings at the level of the Defence Minister, conduct regular maritime exercises and convene regular service-to-service talks.
    • The first-ever Bilateral Maritime Exercise, AUSINDEX 15, was conducted in Visakhapatnam and the Bay of Bengal in September 2015.
    • Indian Air Force participated for the first time in the Exercise Pitch Black in Australia from 27th July – 17th August.
    • An Australian Naval ship HMAS Larrakia participated in the ‘MILAN’ Naval exercise in Andaman & Nicobar Islands in March 2018.

Major defence exercises between India and Australia


Conducting/Hosting Entity

India/Australia’s Participation

Exercise Kakadu

  • A joint-enabled, biennial exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Navy and supported by the Royal Australian Air Force
  • India, since 2016

Talisman Sabre

  • A bilateral combined training activity between the Australian Defence Force and the United States military
  • India, Observer in 2019

The rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC)

  • A biennial international naval exercise hosted by the US Navy
  • India, since 2012


  • A biennial multilateral naval exercise hosted by the Indian Navy
  • Australia, since 2003


  • A joint military exercise conducted between India and Australia
  • Held in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018

Exercise Pitch Black

  • A biennial multi-national warfare exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force
  • India, in 2018


  • A biennial bilateral maritime exercise between India and Australia
  • Held in 2015, 2017, 2019

Source: Compiled from various open sources.


Recent Development
  • In a major development, India and Australia signed a historic agreement, called ‘Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA)’, to allow access to military bases for logistics support.
What is ‘Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA)’
  • ‘Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) is administrative arrangements which help to facilitate the replenishment of fuel, rations, spares (where required), and berthing and maintenance for the other nations’ warships, military aircraft and troops during routine port calls, joint exercises and training carried out in each other’s countries as well as during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). 
Other Logistic Support Agreements
  • India has signed five military logistics support agreements with partner countries that include the US, France, Singapore, South Korea, and recently with Australia. The negotiations with Japan and Russia are in advance stages.
Significance of MLSA
  • The agreement will facilitate reciprocal access to military logistics facilities, allow more complex joint military exercise, and improve interoperability between the security forces of the two nations.
  • These agreements simplify the bookkeeping during such events and ensure that the forces of the visiting countries are benefited by using the host nation’s existing logistics network, which additionally reduces overall costs and saves on time.
  • These agreements feed into the Indian Navy’s requirement to maintain an around-the-clock and round-the-year presence in its primary areas of interest, the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), and, going forward, the Indo-Pacific.
  • The logistics agreements in certain ways also divest the need for a nation to invest in overseas bases or dual-use infrastructure.
  • Depending on a nation’s strategic interests in a region, the development of overseas bases has to be assessed against the relative flexibility that a logistics agreement provides for expanding a nation’s operational footprint and diversifying its international presence at the same time at a much lesser cost.

Importance of Logistic agreement for Navy

  • The biggest beneficiary of the logistics pacts has been the Navy which interacts and exercises the most with foreign navies.
  • When operating on the high seas, exercises, or during humanitarian assistance missions fuel, food, and other needs can be exchanged and settled through the established modalities later.
    • E.g, under LEMOA with the U.S., India has Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) which includes designating the points of contact for the U.S. military to work with, and a common account for payments.
    • The SOPs are applicable to all three services with each service has a designated LEMOA office.


  • The MLSA assumes greater importance in light of India and Australia’s limited naval capabilities.
  • The scarcity of resources puts severe limitations on a country’s ability to project power in the distant waters, leaving its far-off assets at the mercy of other actors.
  • In the case of India and Australia, such a limitation puts them at a disadvantage vis-à-vis China. 
  • Similarly, India has legitimate interests in the wider Indo-Pacific with its ever-increasing trade with the countries in the region.
  • It faces occasional challenges in the distant waters of the South China Sea, the latest being China’s deployment of a survey vessel, close to waters where state-owned ONGC Videsh is engaged in oil and gas production. With the conclusion of MLSA will help improve the capabilities of both nations to operate in distant waters.

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