As part of growing strategic relationship to counter China's increased activity in the Indian Ocean, India and Australia will focus on anti-submarine warfare in their first ever joint naval exercises, reports SMH.
The Indian Navy and Royal Australian Navy are gearing up for the first-ever joint maritime exercise, AUSINDEX.
The war games starting Sept. 11 off India's Visakhapatnam port in the Bay of Bengal will
include exercises to protect a tanker from a hostile attack submarine.
The joint maritime exercise between the two natio-ns assumes significance in the backdrop of China trying to gain access to the Bay of Bengal, by cultivating naval cooperation with Ba-ngladesh, Myanmar and military cooperation with Sri Lanka, while India is trying to strengthen its na-val cooperation with her allies.
The drills — first discussed a decade ago — come as global powers vie for greater influence. The Indian Ocean's sea lanes account for almost half of the world's container trade, including 80 percent of China's oil imports.
There's the "potential for increased security tensions in the Indian Ocean," said Capt. Sheldon Williams, defense adviser at the Australian High
Commission in New Delhi. "We sit right in the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. We have a significant responsibility for its security. That's how we're looking at it now."
An Indian Navy delegation, led by Eastern Naval Command
(ENC), commander in chief, Vice Admiral Satish Soni, had visited Perth in Australia in June this year to discus modalities on the joint exercise.
A month later in the same waters, India and the United States will conduct drills that U.S. Ambassador Richard Verma described as the most complex yet between the two nations. Japan has been invited to join.
Earlier, inclusion of Japan and Australia in the Indo-US annual maritime exercise — Malabar, in Bay of Bengal in 2007, had rattled China.
China made strides into a region India considers its traditional sphere of influence, building ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and an oil pipeline to Myanmar's coast. President Xi Jinping has also lobbied the Maldives, Seychelles and Sri Lanka to join a maritime version of his Silk Road trade rejuvenation project.
Most alarming for India, though, has been China's deployment of submarines near its shores.