Home Diplomacy Australia kept India informed on AUKUS & assured strategic support, says high...

Australia kept India informed on AUKUS & assured strategic support, says high commissioner

Australian envoy to India Barry O’Farrell says his country’s cutting-edge naval capabilities will help give teeth to strategic ambitions of its partners in the region.

Nayanima Basu
File image of Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O'Farrell | Photo: Commons
File image of Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O'Farrell | Photo: Commons

New Delhi: Australia had kept India in the loop before it went for the enhanced trilateral partnership with the US and the UK, called the AUKUS, according to its high commissioner to New Delhi, Barry O’Farrell.

The envoy said Friday that Australia believes this will also add onto the strategic capabilities of its partners in the region, including India.

Before the announcement on AUKUS was made, Australia and India’s Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Scott Morrison, Foreign Ministers S. Jaishankar and Marise Payne, and Defence Ministers Rajnath Singh and Peter Dutton spoke to each other to apprise India of the new partnership.

However, the high commissioner said the roll-out of the AUKUS was not discussed at the India-Australia 2+2 meeting that took place on 11 September.

Also read: Why India could gain ‘major leverage’ as Australia, UK, US join hands to take on China

‘Challenging strategic environment’

Under AUKUS, the US and the UK will support Australia’s Royal Navy in building nuclear-powered submarines by transferring technology.

“The fact is that the decision was arrived at after deep consideration by my government based on a sober assessment of the capability required to meet a more challenging strategic environment,” O’Farrell told a select group of journalists.

“As a three-ocean nation, nuclear-powered submarines will provide Australia with the capability it now believes it needs for its defence because they can travel faster, they can travel for a longer range and they have greater power and endurance,” the high commissioner explained.

O’Farrell said this an “environment that we share with India where great power competition is intensifying; where territorial tensions in the South China Sea, Taiwan and elsewhere are becoming more challenging; and Indo-Pacific investment in military capability is proceeding at an unprecedented levels”.

“Of course, the latter point is driven by China, which has the largest military modernisation programme underway in the world,” he pointed out.

The envoy said AUKUS will strengthen Australia’s relationship “bilaterally, trilaterally and quadrilaterally across the region”, and will ensure that Australia has capabilities that can “contribute” to capabilities of India and other partners, so that they can stand up against those “behaviours that threaten peace in the Indo-Pacific today and in the future”.

O’Farrell also expressed hope that Australia will continue to be a part of the Malabar Naval Exercise, which it became part of in 2020.

The second phase of Malabar will take place next month in the Bay of Bengal, where the navies of the Quad countries India, Australia, US and Japan will again come together. The first phase got over on 26 August.

“We participated for two years in a row, we hope to keep that going,” the high commissioner said.

‘Continue to want to work with France, India’

As soon as the AUKUS was announced, ties between Australia and France both of whom are crucial partners in the Indo-Pacific region seemed to hit a turbulence, with Canberra cancelling a $90 billion deal to procure Attack-class submarines from French manufacturer ‘Naval Group’.

“Clearly, France has expressed a level of dissatisfaction. But we continue to want to work with India, with France, with Indonesia about matters related to the Indo-Pacific… This should not affect their engagement in the Indo-Pacific,” O’Farrell said.

“What is important here is that the Australian government has made a decision based on its assessment of the current strategic climate,” he said, referring to the move to procure nuclear-powered submarines as opposed to conventional ones from France.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

(This report has been updated with more quotes from the high commissioner, and to correctly reflect that the AUKUS was not discussed in the India-Australia 2+2 dialogue)

Also read: ‘Deeply disappointed’ with non-inclusive Taliban govt in Afghanistan, Australia says


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