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Building an India-US-Australia partnership in the Indian Ocean

New report calls for a tri-state co-operation between Australia, India and the United States to meet challenges in the Indo-Pacific by forging new partnership.

Sydney, August 25: Australia should lead in creating a strong partnership with India that complements our core alliance with the United States, according to a new report written by David Brewster for the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

Brewster says that to foster cooperation between the three countries in the Indian Ocean, Australia should:

  1. offer combined defence training opportunities in Darwin,
  2. consider sharing facilities in the Cocos Islands with India, and
  3. continue to press for a high level trilateral dialogue including India and the United States.

“Australia’s relationship to India has been under-considered, especially when compared to debates around China,” he says.

“In future years, India may become one of Australia’s most important strategic partners in the region.

“Australia must play an active role in moulding a new dynamic and promoting India’s regional role as a complement to the United States.”

David Brewster is a strategic maritime analyst
David Brewster is a strategic maritime analyst

David Brewster, a senior research fellow at the National Security College at the Australian National University, in his report call for Australia to promote a high level trilateral security dialogue with India and the United States.  

Another key recommendation in the report recommends a tri-state maritime surveillance covering Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Australia should work with India, the United States and others to build a shared system (and) could include shared access to facilities such as Australia’s Cocos Islands.

“Australia should encourage India to use training facilities in northern Australia as one way of promoting greater interoperability”, Mr Brewster states.

The report scrutinises the choices faced by Australia in building its strategic relationship with India in a way that fits with the US alliance and the broader regional order.

According to Mr Brewster, Australia fostering a trilateral partnership with both India and the United States is highly preferable.

“The centrality of the US alliance for Australia makes trilateral cooperation… imperative in the long term.

“But (that) India’s traditions constrain its ability to cooperate”, is not lost in the study.

The study proposes that Australia should build a defence partnership with the United States and India with a primary focus on the Indian Ocean.

US and Indian Navy officers during Exercise Malabar 2007. Photo US Navy
US and Indian Navy officers during Exercise Malabar 2007. Photo US Navy

“This would initially emphasise working together in selected areas…

“Building trust and habits of cooperation among the three countries will be an essential step in creating resilient partnerships to deal with long term transitions of power in the region”.

David Brewster who writes widely on Indian strategic affairs and maritime security in the Indian Ocean region, has earlier examined the India-China maritime contest in his book – India and China at Sea: A Contest of Status and Legitimacy in the Indian Ocean.

Thus, this report particularly delves into areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to improve maritime domain awareness through trilateral cooperation.

“The vastness of distances across the Indian Ocean makes tracking of vessels and aircraft a difficult task and beyond the resources of any single country.

“It is a field that India has shown particular interest in cooperating with both the United States and Australia. It is also a field that probably holds fewer political sensitivities for India”, the report states.

Ramakrishna VenuGopal

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