India-Australia Defence Pact: All you need to know
India and Australia are expected to sign an agreement to swap islands to counter China's aggression in the Indian Ocean. This agreement could boost Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) for India and Australia. The virtual meeting between Prime Minister Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on June 4, 2020, could lay the foundation for the use of India's Andaman and the Nicobar Islands by Australia and Australia's Cocos Islands by India for military purposes.
The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) was expected to be signed during PM Morrison's visit to India but was called off due to the Australian bushfires. India has signed similar logistic agreements with the US, Singapore, France and South Korea.
Importance of these straits
Andaman and Nicobar Islands are close to the straits of Malacca while Australia's Cocos Islands lie close to the Indonesian straits of Sunda, Lombok and Ombai-Wetar.
The straits of Malacca is strategically placed and acts as the entry and exit points between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean for Australia and India respectively.
Cocos Islands is situated in the Indian Ocean and comprises of a small archipelago midway between Australia and Sri Lanka. It is also located close to the Indonesian island of Sumatra and is the part of Southeast Asia.
The straits of Sunda, Lombok and Malacca are of utmost importance as the transportation of crude oil and petroleum is done through the straits.
Apart from this, Australia is the key partner in India's Indo-Pacific strategy while Indo-Pacific is of utmost importance for Australia. In addition to this, this agreement is of utmost importance with the trade perspective.
Impact of this Agreement
As per the experts, if the Indian-Australian pact is signed, then India will easily monitor the area between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the north to Cocos Islands in the South. This would also help India in establishing multiple checkpoints to efficiently track hostile submarines. Similarly, the agreement will help Australia in strengthening its presence in the regions.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Cocos Islands have been used for surveillance purposes. However, this agreement will help both the nations to strengthen their presence in the region and will also help the nations to work more efficiently.
The Indian Naval Forces in March found that Beijing had deployed 12 underwater drones in the Indian Ocean to gather oceanography data. Generally, this kind of data is gathered for naval intelligence purposes and primarily for submarine warfare.
Currently, the tensions between India and China heightened due to the standoff between their border troops in Ladakh. Also, after Canberra's call for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, the relations between Australia and China are not good.