Defence Engagement Australia and India
Building on a long history of cooperation - including our shared experience in the trenches of the First World War in Gallipoli and along the Western Front - Australia and India have developed a positive defence relationship. This is underpinned by our 2006 Memorandum on Defence Cooperation and the 2009 Joint Declaration on Security Co-operation. Following the agreement in 2014 of a bilateral Framework for Security Cooperation the defence relationship has grown to include a range of forums for strategic dialogue, as well as regular interactions between our respective services through senior visits, staff talks, and training exchanges.
The Australia–India defence relationship now encompasses almost every major function of the military: strategic dialogues, coordination, and information exchanges; military exercises involving ground, ai and maritime forces; personnel exchanges and training; and defence scientific and technological cooperation. All of which reflect our growing interoperability and strategic partnership.
In June 2020, Australia and India upgraded their Secretaries’ 2+2 dialogue (Defence and Foreign Affairs) to the Ministerial level. Ministers from the two countries meet regularly to engage on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Mutual Logistic Support Arrangement (MLSA)
Australia and India concluded the Mutual Logistic Support Arrangement (MLSA) in 2020 during the virtual summit between Australia's former Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The agreement facilitates sophisticated logistic cooperation, enabling increasingly complex military engagement, and greater combined responsiveness to regional humanitarian disasters.
Defence Science & Technology Implementing Arrangement (DSTIA)
The Defence Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement (DSTIA) facilitates interaction between our defence research organisations, both of which made important contributions to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shared Military Platforms
Australian and Indian militaries share a growing number of platforms, which is increasing opportunities for joint training and interoperability. These include C-17 strategic transport aircraft, C-130 tactical transport aircraft, Hawk fighter trainer aircraft, P-8 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, MH-60R Seahawk maritime helicopters and CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters.
The Information Fusion Centre - Indian Ocean Region in Gurugram is an Indian initiative to boost maritime security and response through the exchange of maritime and shipping information across the Indian Ocean Region. As a part of Australia’s intent to meet growing challenges, Defence posted our inaugural liaison officer to the IFC-IOR in February 2021. The IFC-IOR liaison officer is a bridge between Canberra and New Delhi, enhancing maritime situational awareness.
Engagement between the Royal Australian Navy and the Indian Navy has advanced significantly through the key bilateral exercise, AUSINDEX. In 2019, the third edition of the biennial exercise saw Australia send over 1000 Australian personnel to India, including five ships, Australian Army forces and RAAF aircraft. In the subsequent exercise held in Australia in 2021, India reciprocated sending two ships to participate in an activity, reduced in scope due to Australian COVID restrictions.
In October 2020 Australia participated in Exercise MALABAR, joining India, the United States and Japan. In August 2023 Australia hosted Exercise MALABAR for the first time. This complex naval exercise brings together four regional defence partners and democracies, demonstrating a collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific. High-end military exercises like MALABAR are also key to enhancing Australia’s maritime capabilities and building interoperability with our close partners.
Exercise MILAN is a multilateral naval exercise hosted biennially by the Indian Navy. The Royal Australian Navy has participated in every iteration of the exercise since 2003 and will again send a ship to the 12the edition of the Exercise planned to be held in Visakhapatnam in February 2024. In addition to professional exercises and seminars, social events and sporting fixtures ashore, the Indian Navy also conducts a series of complex and advanced maritime serials to enhance compatibility, interoperability, mutual understanding and cooperation amongst participating partner navies.[
The Australian Army and Indian Army hold an annual bilateral exercise, AUSTRAHIND, hosted alternatively by Australia and India. Exercise AUSTRAHIND is designed to build positive military relations, imbibe each other’s best practices and promote the ability to operate together while undertaking multi-domain operations. The joint exercise, besides promoting understanding and interoperability between the two armies. It also further strengthens ties between India and Australia by strengthening our people-people links at the tactical and operational levels.
A major threshold of defence engagement was crossed when, for the first time, the Indian Air Force participated in Exercise PITCH BLACK in Darwin in 2018. India’s participation was additionally significant for staging the first mid-air refuelling of an IAF combat aircraft (Su-30MKI) by an RAAF aircraft (KC-30A), revealing a degree of coordination not previously demonstrated. The 2022 iteration of Australia’s multilateral air combat exercise involved air forces from 17 allied and partner nations, together with over 2500 military personnel. In 2023 India will host its first multination air combat exercise TARANG SHAKTI.
Australia and India build links between our defence forces through regular personnel and training exchanges, such as short specialist courses and longer-term higher education positions. Every year, Australia sends officers to attend India’s premiere military educational institutions: India’s Defence Services Staff College, and its National Defence College. India also sends four officers to study in Australia annually at Australia’s Command and Staff College, Defence and Strategic Studies course and Capability and Technology Management College.
Inaugurated in 2023, the General Rawat India - Australia Young Defence Officer Exchange Program offers the opportunity each year for fifteen young officers from across Army, Navy, and Air Force, to learn more about each other’s training, operational environments and culture. In 2023 15 young Australian Defence Officers travelled to India and in 2024 it is expected that 15 young Indian Armed Forces officers will travel to Australia, to study Australian Defence capability and culture.