Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
And thank you to the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) for hosting.
The IDSA is a welcome and prestigious Indian voice in the international strategic and defence think tank community.
In particular, I value the opportunity to interact with such a cross-section of Indian representatives, including those in the defence sector, current and former military personnel, academics, researchers, defence industry representatives and students.
Today, I would like to provide you with my views on the Australia-India Defence relationship, both as it sits today and the potential for future development. To do this justice, I will start with some broad comments on our shared history and current links. I will then outline some of the key areas in which we are engaging – both from a multilateral and bilateral perspective – finally closing out with Australia’s views on the strategic environment, and our approach to Defence more broadly.
I hope that these observations will give you a better appreciation for why we see such potential for our relationship.
India and Australia have a long history of shared security interests, both within and beyond the Indo-Pacific region. This illustrates the potential for further growing our relations.
Over the past century, Indian and Australian servicemen have served and fought alongside each other in a variety of conflicts.
In the First World War, Indian and Australian servicemen fought together on the beaches of Gallipoli, in the deserts of Mesopotamia and the Middle East, and in the fields of France.
In the Second World War, our armed forces served along side each other in the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, North African, and Pacific theatres, most notably during the siege of Tobruk by Rommel’s Africa Corp, and the Burma campaign to defend India from falling to Japan.
This shared history, coupled with our shared democratic values and a strong interest in a secure Indo-Pacific region, provides us with a firm foundation upon which we can confidently pursue future engagement activities in support of our joint interests.
Our economic relationship is also strong – and there is currently work under way between our respective governments to further grow it over time.
Concluding a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India is the Australian Government’s top bilateral priority, not least since the agreement will help drive growth and create new jobs and greater prosperity for both Australia and India.
Australia is committed to fulfilling the objective of Prime Ministers Abbott and Modi to conclude a CECA by the end of 2015. Australia and India are natural economic partners and a mutually beneficial, high quality agreement will help unlock the potential of the already strong Australia-India relationship.
Indian investment in Australia was AUD 10.9 billion in 2014, and Australian investment in India was AUD 9.8 billion.
And our annual trade is worth nearly AUD16 billion – but as we know, trade relies on open trade routes.
We both border the Indian Ocean and have a shared interest in the maintenance of freedom of navigation and trade. In fact, the world economy is fast becoming reliant upon Indian Ocean trade as its bulk cargo grows.
Australia recognises India’s critical role in supporting the security, stability and prosperity of the Indian Ocean region and the stability of a wider, rules‑based global order.
This is why Australia views India as a key strategic partner – and there is scope for us to cooperate further on broader global issues.
I am pleased to see that our nations are working closely together in the security sector, and I remain committed to seeing us grow such engagements further.
This intention was formally recognised during Prime Minister Modi’s November 2014 visit to Australia, where he and Prime Minister Abbott formalised a whole-of-government Framework for Security Cooperation, which will include work to facilitate greater defence interaction over time.
As two prominent Indian Ocean states, India and Australia are cooperating closely in the region. A key plank of this engagement occurs through our joint work as part of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
Australia – through our Foreign Minister – began a two-year term as Chair of IORA in November 2013, continuing the strong work during India’s term as Chair.
Through IORA, we have promoted regional engagement in diverse fields such as maritime safety and security, trade and investment, fisheries and science and technology cooperation.
We are also partnering to strengthen the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), of which Australia has been the chair since March 2014.
India’s work to establish IONS in 2008 represented an important new stage in the development of Indian Ocean security architecture.
IONS seeks to increase maritime cooperation among the navies of nations in the Indian Ocean region. Through seminars and workshops held every year and a formal meeting every two years, IONS provides a forum for discussion of relevant maritime issues. It brings our navy chiefs together and allows for a frank flow of information between these professionals to promote common understandings and agreements.
Importantly, in 2014, IONS announced a “Charter of Business” and established working groups on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, Counter-Piracy and Information Sharing and Interoperability. Over time it is our hope that these groups will see the tangible naval cooperation between our two nations, and our broader counterparts, grow.
Building cooperation helps to provide for a more secure maritime environment.
By 2030, the Indo-Pacific region is expected to account for 21 of the top 25 sea and air trade routes; around two thirds of global oil shipments and one third of the world’s bulk cargo movements. So improving security will be crucial to protecting our prosperity.
Australia strongly believes that ASEAN-centric multilateral frameworks have contributed to security and stability in the wider Indo-Pacific region by building degrees of trust and habits of cooperation.
The ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) in particular has fostered practical military cooperation between members.
The constructive engagement of all key regional members, including Australia, India, the United States and China has been important to the achievements of the ADMM-Plus.
Australia congratulates India on its achievements in co-chairing with Vietnam the Experts’ Working Group on Humanitarian Mine Action since 2014.
However, our engagement extends past multilateral activities, to include a healthy program of bilateral defence engagement. In this setting, it is not surprising that, being Indian Ocean states, defence engagement between Australia and India focuses on joint naval cooperation.
The ships of our navies regularly engage in port visits – and short term passage exercises – to further our relationship.
HMAS Newcastle visited India in April this year to mark the centenary of ANZAC celebrations and to conduct a passage exercise.
Perhaps most significantly, our navies will conduct our first Bilateral Maritime Exercise – Exercise AUSINDEX – later this month.
The Exercise will take place in the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet exercise area off the coast of Visakhapatnam.
The Exercise is a significant step forward in the bilateral defence relationship. It is a sign of growing naval cooperation between both nations.
Australia will be sending an ANZAC class frigate (HMAS Arunta); an oiler (HMAS Sirius) a Collins class submarine (HMAS Sheean) and an AP3-C maritime surveillance aircraft. In total, Australia’s contribution will number around 400 personnel – with a similar contribution from India.
The focus areas of the Exercise will include:
· integrated operations with surface, air and sub-surface forces;
· planning and the conduct of anti-submarine warfare exercises;
· helicopter cross deck operations;
· surface and anti-air firing exercises; and
· seamanship exercises.
Exercise AUSINDEX will comprise a harbour phase, a sea phase as well as a debrief phase. Its objectives include:
· strengthening relationships and understanding of procedures through professional as well as social interactions;
· enhancing mutual understanding and cooperation through conduct of mission-specific briefings, table top exercises and scenario-based practical demonstrations and exercises;
· exchanging professional views through conduct of sharing experiences on specific topics of interest; and
· enhancing proficiency in core mariner skills, professional standards, safety and communications.
This Exercise marks a new and important stage in the development of our defence relationship. I am keen to see greater opportunities for our forces to work together on exercises.
But the potential for greater cooperation between our Defence organisations is not confined to the naval sphere.
We are also slowly seeking to build our bilateral Air Force relationship based on our use of common platforms such as the Hawk, C-17, C-130 and P8 maritime patrol aircraft.
In April 2015, we conducted Air Force Staff Talks in Australia where we agreed to work towards developing a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief Exercise between both Air Forces in the long term.
The RAAF has also recently issued an invitation for India to attend Exercise PITCH BLACK 16. While attendance remains under consideration in India, it would provide a substantial step forward in the relationship. PITCH BLACK is a growing multilateral Exercise that offers unique training opportunities to regional air forces.
At the Army Staff Talks in August 2014, both sides agreed in‑principle to explore opportunities for future exercises. While the distance between both nations is great in distance, I hope we can identify appropriate opportunities in the near future.
We are also inviting India to attend the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting (a soldiering competition) and our biennial PIRAP JABIRU peacekeeping Exercise.
People-to-people links through personnel and training exchanges have proved vital to building familiarity between our defence forces.
Australia has been pleased to annually host high quality Indian officers at our primary military training institutions – the Australian Command and Staff College and the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies.
Our Australian officers have also appreciated the opportunity to attend India’s fine military training institutions, the National Defence College and the Defence Services Staff College.
This is complemented by a steady flow of officers attending short courses in both countries on various skill areas, such as peacekeeping, emergency management and hydrography.
Many Australian officers have also had the opportunity to attend the exemplary course run by the Indian Army’s Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping (CUNPK).
We also conduct joint dialogue at the strategic levels, including annual Defence Policy Talks and a 1.5 Track Dialogue, and regular engagements between the Services.
Important as these activities are, there is still more scope for us to expand our defence cooperation.
I hope to be in a position to announce a range of new activities after my meeting with Indian Defence Minister Parrikar later today, taking another step toward realising the full potential for our relationship.
Australia’s strategic environment
Changing gears slightly, I would like to provide a brief overview of how Australia views the current strategic environment.
Australia is a country which has many great strengths.
Our economy is in the top fifteen in the world – a position that has been built on our credentials as a strong exporting nation.
We continue to be a key contributor to regional stability, and joint activities with our neighbours.
Like India, we live within a region that will continue to undergo tremendous change, and we must adapt.
Economic growth is transforming the Indo-Pacific region, which is becoming the global strategic and economic centre of gravity.
Reports predict that by 2050, half of the world’s top 20 economies will be in the Indo-Pacific. Some also predict that India, China, Indonesia and Japan will be in the top five economies in the world with the US.
India’s own economic growth will be a key driver of energy demand.
The United States has underpinned regional peace and security over the last 70 years, and continues to do so. Australia strongly supports the United States’ presence in the Indo‑Pacific, and its rebalance of forces to our region.
While the region is seeing dynamic economic growth, the United States will remain the pre-eminent global power to 2035.
The China-United States relationship will be a particularly important dynamic in shaping the region, and this is a key consideration for Australian planning and policy-making.
While some tension is inevitable, both China and the United States have a clear interest in preserving regional stability and security, not least because of their close economic integration.
Such integration is not only increasing between major powers. The shift of strategic weight to the Indo‑Pacific is driving economic, energy and trade interdependence across the region, as states’ economic wellbeing and prosperity increasingly depend on free and open trade.
Greater interdependence between states is encouraging, as it reduces the likelihood of destabilising actions or conflicts. But interdependence will not remove these risks altogether.
As major and emerging powers seek to advance their own interests, they will cooperate in some areas, but compete in others.
Tensions in the Indo-Pacific persist, and in some cases are becoming more acute. Territorial disputes continue to risk regional stability and create uncertainty.
One issue that has attracted a lot of international attention in recent months is the South China Sea.
Australia has a legitimate interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.
Australia does not take sides on competing territorial claims in the South China Sea, but we are concerned that large-scale land reclamation and construction activity by China and other claimants raises tensions in the region.
It is important to recognise that all states have a right under international law to freedom of overflight in international airspace. All countries should respect this.
Australia strongly opposes the use of intimidation, aggression or coercion to advance any country’s claims or unilaterally alter the status quo. We are particularly concerned about the possible militarisation of features in the South China Sea.
We encourage practical implementation of commitments under the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea; and urge China and ASEAN member countries to make early progress on a substantive Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.
The imperative to use peaceful means to resolve regional disputes is particularly salient in light of regional military modernisation. Across the Indo-Pacific, states are modernising their forces in line with their growing economic prosperity.
In the decades ahead, many regional states will grow more powerful militarily as they acquire more capable and technologically advanced platforms.
Military modernisation is a natural part of any state’s development. In fact, it can be seen as a largely positive development, as modernising states are more able to manage security challenges they face. It also represents a great opportunity for Australia to work with more capable partners, as we are with India, in support of shared interests in regional security and stability.
Yet accelerating military modernisation also has the potential to increase strategic competition as states seek military advantages over their neighbours. Australia continues to encourage all countries to be open about their defence policies and transparent in their long-term strategic intentions to build trust and minimise the potential for miscalculation.
In addition to state-based threats, transnational threats continue to challenge both regional security and the stability of the global rules-based order.
There is no better example of how security challenges in the wider world affect the Indo-Pacific than the growing threat posed by international terrorism. Middle East conflicts will continue to attract foreign terrorist fighters from the Indo-Pacific region, including from Australia. As these individuals return to their countries of origin, including Australia, with new skills and networks, the risk of terrorist attacks will rise.
But we realise that India’s experience with terrorism is much longer and more extensive than Australia’s.
For a long time, India has faced terrorist threats from a full range of sources. These threats were seen at their worst during the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, with catastrophic consequences.
Apart from terrorism, our region also faces increasing security threats in and from cyberspace. These require vigilance and a concerted effort by our Defence organisation, across Government agencies, and with industry to protect our economy, our people and our security.
At the same time, natural disasters will continue to require rapid responses. Australia will continue to provide leadership in regional humanitarian and disaster relief and in building the capacity of our neighbours, particularly in the South Pacific.
I expect that over the coming years, India and Australia will become even closer partners in managing humanitarian disaster and disaster relief contingencies in addition to our already strong defence partnership.
The role of Defence
Our security is built upon unconstrained access to global commons – such as the high seas, cyberspace and space. Any disruption to these commons, physical or virtual, would have a fundamental impact on Australia and our partners in the region, including India.
Australia’s freedoms rely on a stable region that is founded on transparency, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and respect for international law and territorial integrity.
These are all in Australian strategic interests. They also equate with our values and who we are as a nation. We share these interests with the other nations in our region, including India, and if one nation is denied these rights, we are all affected.
Australia’s 2015 Defence White Paper
As I have outlined, our region is full of opportunities but also challenges. Australia must ensure that its defence organisation evolves to meet these challenges. If we want to live in a more rules-based global order, we need to invest in the power-based component of that order.
With the increasingly uncertain strategic outlook as its context, the Australian Government will shortly release a new Defence White Paper. The White Paper will present a clear, long-term plan for Australia’s defence over the next two decades, one that aligns strategy, capability and resources.
The Government has reviewed Defence’s policy settings to ensure that Australia is well positioned to respond to its future security challenges.
We can not defend Australia effectively over the coming decades by continuing to rely on historical notions of basing our defence planning on the defence of the Australian continent and the immediate air and sea environment in Australia’s north.
The White Paper will set out the Government’s direction that Defence is to play a more active role in supporting regional security and Australia’s interests in a more rules-based global order.
Defence will need to be prepared to respond to a range of contingencies at short notice, both in the Indo-Pacific region and further afield, where our interests are engaged.
Australia’s Defence Force must be capable of:
· defending Australia and its national interests;
· playing an active role in contributing to regional security and stability; and,
· contributing to coalition operations across the world where our interests are engaged.
All of these tasks must guide how we structure our forces and how we employ our Defence capabilities.
Australia recognises that it cannot achieve its defence objectives alone. A strong network of bilateral and multilateral relationships, supported by regular dialogue and practical cooperation will be increasingly important for Australia’s security. This reinforces the importance of realising the potential for closer cooperation with regional partners, including India.
The White Paper will outline steps for Defence to increase its investment in international engagement to help reduce the risk of military confrontation, build interoperability with key partners, and improve the coordination of responses to shared international challenges.
The White Paper will build on the already capable Australian Defence Force to equip it for a more complex and demanding future operating environment.
Over the next 20 years, Australia will acquire significant and sophisticated new platforms, including new submarines, frigates, the Joint Strike Fighter and replacements for our fleet of land combat vehicles.
Of course, future effectiveness will depend on more than high‑end platforms. Countries that can bring their different capabilities together to operate as a coordinated joint force, as well as effectively with the forces of allies and partners in coalition operations, will enjoy an advantage.
For Australia, it’s the ability to integrate and share information between platforms and systems in a timely manner that will give the Australian Defence Force a distinct edge. This will be achieved largely through greater investment in enabling capabilities such as intelligence, surveillance, information dissemination, cyber, infrastructure and training systems.
To deliver the capabilities set out in this White Paper, the Australian Government has committed to growing Defence spending to two per cent of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product by 2024.
To ensure that this investment is spent well and wisely, this will be Australia’s first fully-costed, and externally cost-assured, Defence White Paper. Private sector cost assurance has been conducted on all Defence capability and enterprise elements to provide confidence that financial planning has been robust.
The Australian Government also recognises that delivering the defence capability we need, on time and within budget, will require a transformation in how our Defence organisation does its business.
In April this year, I released the First Principles Review of Australia’s Defence organisation. This Review forms the core of the most fundamental Australian defence reforms since the 1970s.
Implementation of these reforms will make our Defence organisation more agile and effective in achieving the tasks to be set out in the White Paper, while better preparing our armed forces to meet present and future challenges.
In concluding, I’d like to re-emphasise the importance of our strategic partnership with India, and the potential for closer relations over time.
We share history, democratic values, and an interest in the prosperity and security of the region – which underpins that future potential. We will both benefit from a more rules-based global order, which will drive our economic growth. Importantly, we see opportunities to work more closely in Defence to protect that order and encourage prosperity.
We see enormous potential in our bilateral defence relationship so we look forward to working with India towards that goal.