India and Australia tonight decided to deepen their bilateral defence partnership by taking a slew of fresh initiatives including setting up of a joint working group on defence research and material cooperation and focusing on maritime security ties in the Indian Ocean region.
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Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews called for deeper defence ties with "key strategic partner" India. (Photo: PTI)[/caption]
It was also decided that India will take part in the first ever air excercise with Australia.
This is in addition to the first-ever bilateral naval excercise that is scheduled to be held later this month.
The decisions came following the delegation-level talks between visiting Australian defence Minister Kevin Andrews and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar.
"Given both nations' interest in the Indian Ocean and its vital importance to regional and global trade, the ministers acknowledged the importance of freedom of maritime navigation and agreed that maritime security should remain a key component of the bilateral defence relationship," a joint statement released here this evening said.
The Ministers affirmed their desire to continue to broaden and deepen the bilateral defence relationship based on shared strategic interests and to implement the action plan outlined in the Framework for Security Cooperation agreed to by the Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Tony Abbott on 18 November 2014, it said.
The two ministers decided to work for closer Air Force engagement, including Indian attendance at the Royal Australian Air Force exercise PITCH BLACK.
They also decided to create closer Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) relationship, commencing with a regular subject matter expert exchange, the joint statement said.
Australia and India will also continue to cooperate through joint work as part of the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus construct.
The Ministers also agreed to continue enhancing relationship between Indian and Australian navies, throughbilateral ship visits, exchanges as also through Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and such other fora, the statement said.
The Defence Science and Technology Organizations of Australia and India's Defence Research and Development Organization would continue to explore opportunities to identify areas for cooperation, initially through an exchange of letters followed by the respective organization heads' meeting later in 2015, it said.
"The commencement of a partnership between our respective peacekeeping centres....This will start with closer engagement to enhance knowledge sharing and mutual capacity building," the statement said.
They also agreed to increased Air Force cooperation on aviation safety and air worthiness, including subject matter experts' exchanges, for furthering mutual understanding and improving capability.
The Royal Australian Navy will also be participating in the Indian Navy International Fleet Review in February 2016.
The continuation of the Bilateral Maritime Exercise on a biennial basis was also decided.