Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell has said joint defence activities between the countries have increased four-fold in the last six years, which includes joint exercises such as AUSINDEX and Exercise Pitch Black, as well as the Malabar naval exercise, for which they came together with the US and Japan.
In an interview with ThePrint, conducted over Zoom, the high commissioner said the recent signing of a key defence pact — Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) — will boost these military exercises, thereby strengthening “future activities”.
The MLSA was signed during the virtual India-Australia Summit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison in June 2020, elevating the countries’ bilateral ties to the level of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
“During (exercise) Malabar, we saw the type of cooperation envisaged by the MLSA. However, attention focused on Malabar has masked the four-fold increase in defence activities over the past six years between India and Australia, which includes the AUSINDEX, which is Australia’s biggest and most complicated bilateral naval exercise; and Exercise Pitch Black, involving airway forces,” O’Farrell said.
Exercise Pitch Black is a biennial three-week multilateral air combat training exercise, hosted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). It was last held in 2018. It was supposed to be held in July-August this year, but had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The two navies have also built a strong convergence through regular exercises, such as AUSINDEX, conducted biennially. The last one was held in 2019, and the next is expected to be held in 2021.