Radhika Bansal, Ground Report:
The ‘Virtual Summit’ between PM Modi and Australian PM Scott Morrison has set a fresh start to India-Australia bilateral ties in the Covid pandemic. The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) will allow militaries of the two countries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies besides facilitating scaling up of overall defense cooperation.
“This is a perfect time to further strengthen relations between India and Australia. There are endless opportunities to strengthen our friendship, it also brings with it challenges to turn this potential into reality, how our relationship becomes a factor of stability for the region. India is committed to strengthening its relations with Australia, it is not only important for our two nations but also the Indo-Pacific region and the whole world,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during the interaction.
In his remarks, Scott Morrison complemented PM Modi for his “constructive and very positive” role including at the G-20 role in pushing for a concerted global approach in dealing with the coronavirus crisis. The Australian Prime Minister called India a “trusted friend of Australia” and a “pioneer in technology”. “India has been a positive force in these trying times and our relationship with India is a natural one. The time has come for broader and deeper ties. India has been a pioneer in technology – an area that is key today and will be so in future,” he said.
The Australian Prime Minister also promised PM Modi that he will prepare Gujarati khichdi in his kitchen before their next meeting in person. The virtual summit was wrapped up with the “Samosa-Khichdi” diplomacy. “I thank you for the samosas….we had a lot of fun with it over the weekend,” Mr. Morrison said, referring to him making the samosas and tweeting about it.
India is fast inking reciprocal military logistics pacts with like-minded countries to extend its strategic and naval operational reach in the entire Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond, with an eye firmly on China’s expansionist behavior in the Indo – Pacific.
After similar agreements with the US, France, South Korea, and Singapore, it was India’s turn to ink The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) with Australia. Sources even informed that next in line are countries like Japan, Russia, and the UK.
India and Australia conducted their biggest ever naval exercise called “AudIndEx” to build ‘inter-operability’ off the Visakhapatnam coast in April last year. So, in effect, there is already a military construct to the so-called “Quad” of the like-minded democracies for a free, open, and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.