By Ateet Sharma
New Delhi, June 23: Spotlighting their shared vision of free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, India and Australia today added another dimension to their growing ties - joint production of weapons.
Discussing extensively the defence and security pillars of the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during their meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and visiting Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles focused on certain key areas.
Firstly, as India moves ahead strongly to achieve Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of 'Make in India, Make for the World' or Atmanirbhar Bharat, both sides agreed to find means to grow connections and opportunities between Indian and Australian military industrial complex.
Singh and Marles decided to give fillip to the India-Australia Joint Working Group (JWG) on Defence Research and Materiel Cooperation, which will meet in Australia later this year. The JWG is a crucial mechanism for boosting ties between defence industries.
India's Defence Procurement Policy encourages joint development, design and production with foreign original equipment managers. The Modi government's 'Strategic Partnership' model also seeks to identify a few Indian private companies as strategic partners who would initially link with shortlisted foreign original equipment managers to manufacture major military platforms.
Marles, who visited Goa before arriving in the Indian capital on Tuesday, also toured INS Hansa and the Goa Shipyard Limited to witness first-hand the display of India's growing prowess in indigenous drone development and autonomous vehicle technology.
The two ministers also discussed further opportunities for industrial cooperation between India and Australia to increase the resilience of supply chains and deliver capabilities to their respective defence forces.
'There are also mutual economic opportunities, especially as we both look to diversify and build resilience in our supply chains, as seen with Prime Minister Modi's 'Make in India' indigenisation programme for the military. And the Australian Defence Export Office is eager to send representatives from Australia's defence industry to India's premier defence exhibition - DefExpo,' Marles said later in the day during his address at the National Defence College.
As reported by IndiaNarrative.com earlier, India and Australia are already taking their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership to a new level with extensive collaboration to identify opportunities for strategic investment in Australian critical minerals projects.
Secondly, with both India and Australia seeing the Pacific as a part of the world which is deeply critical for the peace and prosperity of the entire region, the two ministers reviewed strategic challenges and the regional security situation.
Just before arriving in India, the Australian Defence Minister had mentioned after talks with his Japanese counterpart Kishi Nobuo in Tokyo that China is seeking to 'shape the world around it in a way that it has not done before'.
Canberra and Tokyo have also been raising serious concerns about the Solomon Islands-China security agreement, the lack of transparency and its implications for continuing regional security and stability.
Similarly, India has batted for global rules-based order, asserting the importance of UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in areas like the South China Sea. India's approach to Indo-Pacific is pegged to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) doctrine.
Singh and Marles, on Wednesday, welcomed the growing diversity and frequency of defence exercises and exchanges between the two countries and undertook to build upon operational engagements through the India-Australia Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement.
According to the Indian Defence Ministry, the two ministers reviewed the existing defence cooperation activities which have been increasing despite challenges of Covid-19 pandemic and also looked forward to India's participation in Australia's Indo Pacific Endeavour exercise in October 2022.
Thirdly, both ministers disccused the commencement of the landmark General Rawat Young Officer Exchange Programme in the latter half of 2022, which was announced during the virtual summit meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two countries on March 21, earlier this year. The programme will greatly enhance professional military contacts between both sides and facilitate the exchange of ideas and operational experiences.
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