With an eye on China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean, India and Australia will participate in a bilateral naval exercise from April 2 to 16. This will be Australia’s largest display of its defence assets since 1947. Focus of the AUSINDEX exercise will be “anti-submarine warfare”, and it will take place off the coast of Vishakhapatnam, Australian diplomatic sources said. Both sides will deploy P-8I aircraft and P-8A aircraft, which are a “long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft” capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations. The P-8I is a variant of the P-8A Poseidon that Boeing is developing for the US Navy.
While Indian Navy has P-8I aircraft, Australia has the P-8A. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Australian PM Tony Abbott had decided to strengthen the defence relationship, as both countries had established the comprehensive strategic partnership. According to Australian diplomatic sources, four Royal Australian Navy ships will participate in the exercise.
They will be HMAS (Her Majesty’s Australian Ship) Canberra, HMAS Success, HMAS Newcastle, and HMAS Parramatta. HMAS Canberra is the lead ship of the CANBERRA-class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), and is the largest ship ever constructed for the Royal Australian Navy(RAN). HMAS Success is the Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessel, which is capable of replenishment at sea of other RAN vessels of fuel, ammunition, food and stores.
HMAS Newcastle is one of four ADELAIDE-class guided missile frigates in the Royal Australian Navy, which is a long range escort vessel. HMAS Parramatta is one of eight ANZAC-class Frigates and is a long-range frigate capable of air defence, surface and undersea warfare, surveillance, reconnaissance and interdiction.
The exercises have grown from 11 in 2016 to 29 in 2017 and 39 in 2018, and this displays a “high-level of confidence and trust” in each other. Sources also said that there are many multilateral exercises which the two countries’ militaries participate in, and Australia not being a part of the trilateral MALABAR exercise doesn’t display India’s reluctance.
About Quadrilateral grouping not being upgraded to the Foreign secretary level and being kept in the joint-secretary level, sources said that it is a “diplomatic exercise” and should be given the “time and space” to evolve on its own.