India and Australia are all set to undertake their first joint naval exercise later this year. Sources say that plans for a trilateral exercise including Japan is also on the list. If all three nations – India, Japan and Australia agree to it, it will strengthen the ties in all sectors, especially in the field of maritime security and defence cooperation.
The trio had held their first-ever high-level trilateral dialogue in Delhi last week which was attended by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, Japanese vice foreign minister Akitaka Saiki and Australian secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese.
A whole range of issues were discussed including, maritime security, freedom of navigation in the South China Sea but the trilateral maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, was on top of the agenda.
“The three countries have agreed to deepen their defence ties with each other. Discussion on a possible trilateral naval exercise was held but no decision has been taken,” sources said.
They added that India and Australia will undertake their first joint naval exercise later this year. The naval exercise with Australia is likely to be held side-by-side with a similar Indian exercise with Japan scheduled later in September-October, the sources said.
In 2007, China had strongly reactd when the three nations carried out such joint talks with the US. Following the talks, Australia and Japan had taken part in the bilateral exercise between India and US called the ‘Malabar Exercise’.
Following last week’s high level meeting, Japanese deputy foreign minister Saiki had said India, Japan and Australia are on the “same page” over increasing assertiveness of China in the disputed South China Sea.