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Australia and India's strategic defence interests stronger than ever

australia and india s strategic defence interests stronger than ever
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared Australia's defence and national security relationship with India a 'natural partnership' that both sides must continue to develop.

Speaking at the National Defence College in New Delhi, Mr Turnbull stressed the need for regional stability and co-operation.

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"Co-operation on regional stability sits squarely in the interests of both our nations," Mr Turnbull said.

"We are natural partners, today more than ever, and the Australian government will continue to do all in its power to ensure that that partnership continues to flourish."

The prime minister addressed the military history shared by both countries, including battles in Gallipoli, the Middle East, and World War I and II, to emphasise the long-term defence relationship the two countries share.

"For more than a century, Indian and Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen have worked alongside each other, fought alongside each other, in peace and in conflict," Mr Turnbull said.

"On Anzac Day later this month, we will remember the thousands of Indian soldiers who fought alongside Australian troops in every theatre, in Gallipoli, across the Middle East and indeed on the Western Front during the First World War.

"Threads like these tie our defence histories together and create long-lasting bonds that draw our nations even closer together today."

Mr Turnbull also spoke of the economic benefits of a strong defence alliance between the two countries, and also addressed the need to work together to counter terrorism threats.

"Today, more than ever, our economies rely on the maintenance of free and secure trade routes across the Indo-Pacific," he said.

"One of the more significant regional challenges we face, of course, is competing maritime claims in the South China Sea. But we also face common challenges in combating terrorism and transnational crime.

"As like-minded liberal democracies, we can work closely together to champion international law and ensure that challenges like these, and any threat to the rules-based order on which our economies so heavily depend, can be peacefully resolved."

Mr Turnbull said his government's investment in bolstering Australia's naval capabilities is a huge part of ensuring safety in the Indo-Pacific region, adding that it ties in well with the two nations' established partnership.

"Our bilateral Framework for Security Cooperation is a strong platform for collaboration. But Australia and India also need to engage our friends and partners to form broader habits of co-operation, develop each other's capabilities and shape the entire region's common strategic outlook.

"Australia is already a significant Indo-Pacific naval power in its own right. We have one of the largest and most sophisticated naval forces in the region, with nearly 50 commissioned vessels and more than 14,000 personnel.

"And we have just embarked on Australia's largest peacetime investment in national security.

"Our modernisation of the Australian Defence Force, in particular our nation-building shipbuilding plan, will create thousands of new jobs and a sustainable, internationally-competitive sovereign defence industry."

"Our defence industry investment is a truly historic national enterprise. It is the most significant modernisation, investment and construction in defence capability since the Second World War.

"In particular, it focuses on the importance of our own capabilities right across defence and shipbuilding. Over the next generation, we have committed to the construction of 12 future submarines, nine future frigates, 12 offshore patrol vessels."

Mr Turnbull said this investment in defence capabilities will not only benefit Australia, but also India and other allies.

"Our forces are closely integrated with our allies and our partners. We have much to gain, Australia and India from our navies working together, as we already do."

The prime minister said this would become more apparent with upcoming naval exercises.

"Our navies have, in recent times, engaged more and more in port visits and short-term passage exercises.

"In September 2015, our navies conducted their first bilateral maritime exercise in the Bay of Bengal – a great success, which we're aiming to repeat in our next joint exercise off the West Australian Coast in 2018.

"The feedback from that first exercise AUSINDEX showed how well the two navies cooperated. Many Royal Australian Navy personnel commented that when visiting Indian Navy ships they felt very much at home, with very similar shipboard routines, orders and command organisation."

Australia and India's strategic defence interests stronger than ever
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