Australia has offered to India its 'Bushmaster' Protected Mobility Vehicle and counter-IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) devices, as part of its efforts to enhance defense trade between the two countries. It has also agreed to form a Joint Working Group with India to explore cooperation in research and development of defense material.
These were the key defense trade-related take-away from the four-day visit of Australian Defense Minister Kevin Andrews to India that ended today. During his stay in New Delhi, Andrews had met with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval when the two sides discussed possibilities of cooperation.
"Anything that India develops (in defense sector) that we see of use to Australia, it will be of interest to us," Andrews said, expressing his willingness to buy weapons and systems of Indian-origin sometime in the future.
Here are some of the major outcomes from the visit of Andrews:
1. Australia has offered the Thales Group-built 'Bushmaster' protected mobility vehicle that the Australian forces have used extensively in Afghanistan operations for over a decade now, that too with not one casualty in those operations. Andrews described the offer to sell the Bushmaster as one of the examples of how Australia wanted to increase its defense ties with India. For even disinterested observers, Bushmaster is one of the best such vehicles, he said, during his interaction with a select group of Indian journalists at the close of his visit. He also noted that all of the Indian political leaders, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, whom he met during the visit, were very much interested in the vehicle and Australia was looking at how to make the Indian forces get to see it to assess if it was of use to India. (See Box For Specifications)
2. Australia has also offered the counter-IEDs, which it is exporting in thousands to Afghanistan. The device jammed signals from the IEDs so that it can't be set off. This was cited as another example of the defense materials cooperation that India and Australia will look into under the Joint Working Group. The creation of a closer Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) relationship, commencing with a regular subject matter expert exchange, was agreed upon by Parrikar and Andrews during their talks. The first set of the counter-IED devices were first exported to Afghanistan for its National Security Forces in January 2015, according to the Australian Defense Ministry's website. Developed by Australia's Defense Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), under a program sponsored by Ministry of Defense's Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force, the project aims to provide Afghan forces with personnel and vehicle force protection systems to protect against IEDs. The Defense Material Organisation's Australian Military Sales Office is working closely with Australian defense industry partners, who are manufacturing the equipment for the export market.
3. During the talks, Parrikar and Andrews agreed that Australia's Defense Science and Technology Organization and the India's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) would continue to explore opportunities to identify areas for cooperation, initially through an exchange of letters followed by the respective organization heads meeting later in 2015. The two ministers also agreed on the establishment of the Joint Working Group on Defense Research and Material Cooperation, according to a joint statement issued after their meeting on Sep.2, 2015.
4. The two Defense Ministers also agreed on this visit that Australia and India would establish an annual 2+2 Defense and Foreign Secretaries Meeting, commencing in 2016. Both the ministers noted that since the last Defense Ministers' Meeting, India and Australia have held Defense Policy Talks, and bilateral Army, Navy and Air Force Staff Talks. To further bolster this good progress, it was agreed that the Ministerial level meeting may continue to be held regularly, while the army-to-army talks would now be held on an annual basis. The two countries also concurred on the commencement of a partnership between our respective peacekeeping centers. This will start with closer engagement to enhance knowledge sharing and mutual capacity building.
5. The two ministers also acknowledged the first navy-to-navy bilateral maritime exercise 'AUSINDEX' will be held later this month. The exercise will involve multiple ship visits and maritime assets from both the countries. The naval exercise, to be continued on a biennial basis, will foster greater interoperability and cooperation between both nations and further contribute to maritime security, the joint statement said. Royal Australian Navy has also agreed to participate in the Indian Navy-hosted International Fleet Review in February 2016.
6. India and Australia agreed on closer Air Force engagement, including the Indian attendance at the Royal Australian Air Force-led multilateral exercise 'PITCH BLACK' to be held in 2016. They also agreed on increased Air Force cooperation on aviation safety and air worthiness, including subject matter experts' exchanges, to progress mutual understanding and improve capability.