India to forge new military ties with Australia

Canberra accords special status to Antony

Signalling the formation of a new strategic axis in the Indo-Pacific region, Defence Minister A K Antony will travel to Australia on Monday to forge new military ties between the two nations, both of which are seen by the US as linchpins to its “Asia Pivot” strategy.

Canberra has accorded special status to Antony since he is India’s first defence minister to visit Australia.

The defence minister will arrive in Perth where he would be received by his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith. Antony will lay a wreath at the State War Memorial and proceed to Canberra along with Smith in a Australian Air Force plane to meet Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

A bilateral naval exercise in the Indian Ocean may be in the offing.

The Indian Navy would also formalise its participation in an international fleet review being conducted by Australia, sources told Deccan Herald. Earlier, India attended two Australian naval exercise–Exercise Kakadu (2010) and Exercise Dougong (2002)–as an observer.

Exercises in Indian ocean

Though the two nations had agreed to hold exercises in the Indian Ocean, the details are yet to emerge. ?

The Indian Navy invited Australia to the five nation Malabar exercise in 2007, triggering angry reactions from China.

The defence minister’s tour comes within days of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan where he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed a Indo-Pacific strategic axis to counter China’s “String of Pearls” in which Beijing supports construction of a large number of major ports around India, a move which may have military ramifications.   In the onward journey, Antony will stop for a few hours in Singapore on Monday to discuss regional security issues with Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen.

While returning, he would stopover to meet his Thai counterpart Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol Suwanatat and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The minister will be back on June 6.

The prime minister, too, arrived in Thailand on Thursday. 

The two countries have decided to ensure “safety and security of navigation in the Indian Ocean” and “security of sea lane,” says the joint statement issued at the end of summit level talks between Singh and Shinawatra.

India has also welcomed Thailand to join the growing and lucrative defence market.

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