Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said IPE19 was a valuable opportunity for both countries to improve co-operation between the Australian Defence Force and regional defence partners like Sri Lanka.
"Australia enjoys a long-standing relationship with Sri Lanka – over 70 years of close diplomatic ties – and both nations play an important role in the security and stability of the Indian Ocean region," Minister Pyne explained.
"Sri Lanka and Australia share a responsibility for contingency responses to humanitarian and disaster events in the region, so it is important that these exchange activities formed a key part of the visit."
HMA Ships Canberra and Newcastle arrived in the capital Colombo on 23 March, while HMA Ships Success and Parramatta visited the north-eastern port city of Trincomalee.
"IPE19 is the Australian Defence Force’s premier international engagement activity, designed to enhance such mutual understanding. The economic prosperity of the region is built upon open lines of communication, stability through a rules-based order and mutual understanding," Minister Pyne added.
Commander of the IPE19 Joint Task Force, Air Commodore Rick Owen, said Sri Lanka was an appropriate commencement point for IPE19’s international visit program.
"Our engagement program provided us with excellent opportunities to learn from our Sri Lankan hosts, while sharing some of the capabilities the ADF has deployed on IPE19," AIRCDRE Owen said.
The Joint Task Force will head to India next, to take part in the bilateral AUSINDEX maritime exercise.
Engagement with India, one of Australia’s key strategic partners in the Indian Ocean region, will be the cornerstone for IPE19, with a number of high-level activities to be conducted to showcase the breadth and depth of bilateral relationship between the two nations.
Minister Pyne said in late-2018 that Australia’s relationship with India had expanded significantly since the signing of the Whole-of-Government Framework for Security Cooperation in November 2014, and he was dedicated to further strengthening this partnership.
The Joint Task Force for next year’s expedition will involve up to five Royal Australian Navy vessels, including a Landing Helicopter Dock, Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force assets and personnel, and foreign force elements.
"IPE19 is the ADF’s major regional engagement activity, delivering on the promise of the 2016 Defence White Paper to strengthen Australia’s engagement and partnerships with regional security forces," AIRCDRE Owen explained.
As part of IPE19, ADF personnel will participate in a series of engagement activities and military training exercises during port visits to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.