Australia’s Defence Minister Visits India to Strengthen Defence Ties

Australia’s Defence Minister Visits India to Strengthen Defence Ties
Australia's new deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles smiles during a swearing-in ceremony at Government House in Canberra on May 23, 2022. (Photo by Saeed Khan / AFP via Getty Images)

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles on Monday arrived in India to hold a bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart in a bid to bolster defence ties.

In a post on Twitter on Tuesday, Marles praised India as a “top-tier partner” and a “close friend” to Australia.

“I look forward to advancing our ongoing defence engagement as Comprehensive Strategic Partners and reiterate our commitment for closer cooperation in the #IndoPacific,” he said in the Twitter post.

Prior to the trip, Marles noted that his first bilateral meeting with Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh would be “instrumental” in strengthening the two countries relationship.

“The rules-based international order that has brought peace and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific for decades is experiencing pressure as we face shifts in the geostrategic order,” he said in a statement on Monday.

“Australia stands ready to work closely with India in support of an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific.”

Marles’ New Delhi visit comes after about a week after he joined defence talks in Japan. The move was set against a backdrop of China’s rising military, economic and political influence in the Indo-Pacific, raising concerns from Australia and its Quad allies, including India, the U.S. and Japan.

It also comes as India struggles to defend its eastern border of Aksai Chin, which China has effectively taken control over.

But despite the bilateral chill, India, which relies heavily on China for trade, has been less vocal about Beijing’s military aggression than its Quad partners. The India-China trade surpassed the $100 billion mark for the first time in 2021 to reach $125 billion and even increased by 15.3 percent to over US$31 billion in the first quarter of 2o22.

The Quad partner has also remained reluctant to directly condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, depending on Kremlin for a large amount of its arms imports as it moves to deter Chinese expansion on its border.

On a separate trip, Australia’s home affairs minister is meeting Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and foreign minister Gamini Peiris.

Clare O'Neil will discuss cooperative measures to tackle transnational crime, including people smuggling, as boats leaving Sri Lanka’s economic hardships to trickle towards Australia.

O'Neil’s trip coincided with Australia announcing $50 million worth of developmental assistance for food and health care in Sri Lanka.

AAP contributed to this report. 
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at [email protected].
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