Australia’s deputy prime minister and defence minister, Richard Marles, arrived in India on Monday on a four-day visit focused at strengthening defence and security cooperation and engagement across the Indo-Pacific region.
Marles, the first senior member of Anthony Albanese’s administration to visit New Delhi, will meet with Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, and other top Indian officials.
The journey to India comes less than a month after Australia’s new government was formed following the general elections, and it underscores Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s priority for relations with India.
“The rules-based international order that has provided peace and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific for decades is under assault as the geostrategic order alters.” “Australia remains ready to collaborate more closely with India in favour of an Indo-Pacific that is open, inclusive, and resilient,” he added.
The two nations’ defence cooperation has increased significantly in recent years, notably the signing of the Mutual Logistics Assistance Agreement (MLSA) in 2020, which allows both sides to use each other’s military sites for logistics support.
“Australia and India are complete strategic partners,” said Marles, who will be in India from June 20 to June 23. “I am determined to increase Australia’s defence and security cooperation with India.”
He also expressed his eagerness to meet Singh and conduct their first bilateral meeting.
“Minister Singh has been essential in furthering India-Australia defence connections, and I look forward to working with him to strengthen the defence pillar of our comprehensive strategic partnership,” he added.
During his visit, Marles will also meet with national security and defence policymakers and professionals.
The Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022, Australia’s premier engagement initiative, will return to India this year.
Both nations’ relations with China are currently fragile. While India has been at odds with China for more than two years, Australia-China ties have been at an all-time low since 2020, with Beijing imposing exorbitant tariffs, unofficial restrictions, and stringent screening requirements for Australian goods.
Albanese attended a Quad Summit just hours after being inaugurated in last month, and she just dispatched foreign minister Penny Wong to Pacific Island governments to discourage them from forming new security arrangements with China.