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India, Australia strengthen defence ties as China tensions loom

India, Australia strengthen defence ties as China tensions loom

AFP
New Delhi
India and Australia strengthened defence ties Thursday, including sealing a pact to boost military logistics support and maritime cooperation, as both nations experience heightened tensions with regional superpower China.
In a virtual summit held online as the coronavirus pandemic restricts international travel, the two leaders signed a Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement as they hailed an upgrade of their strategic partnership.
“India is committed to further intensifying comprehensive relations with Australia,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in opening remarks.
“This is important not only for our two nations, but is also needed for the Indo-Pacific region as well as for the world.”
His Australian counterpart Scott Morrison added that “in a time like this, we want to deal very much with friends and trusted partners”.
The foreign and defence ministers will now meet at least biannually to discuss strategic issues, the two nations said in a joint statement.
Other agreements on education, mining, and defence science and technology were also inked during the summit, which took place after two earlier scheduled visits by Morrison to India were postponed because of the Australian bushfires and the pandemic.
A senior Indian foreign ministry official told reporters in a media briefing later Thursday that “there was no discussion on China” in the summit.
But analysts said Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in the region, as well as ongoing US-China tensions, was pushing India and Australia closer together to mitigate some of that risk.
“I didn’t expect these two would mention the ‘C’ word, China, but it was very much at the back of their minds,” Asian Studies Adjunct Professor Purnendra Jain of the University of Adelaide told AFP.

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