Shared anxiety over the rise of China could drive deeper military ties between India and Australia, Defence Minister Richard Marles says.
The deputy prime minister is pushing for long-term reciprocal access arrangements with India, calling the development “the logical next step”.
“We want to deepen our operational engagement,” Mr Marles told the ABC at the conclusion of a four day ministerial visit.
He highlighted an exchange of P8 surveillance aircraft and participation in defence exercises as existing examples of military cooperation.
“We want to continue the trajectory of that and to see a greater operational engagement between our two nations’ defence forces,” he said.
Mr Marles said mutual anxiety over China, underpinned by shared values, should be used to build on Australia’s bilateral relationship with the south Asian nation.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a point in both of our country’s histories where we’ve had such a strong strategic alignment, in the sense that China is our largest trading partner for India and Australia,” he said.
“China is our biggest security anxiety we’re both trying to reconcile those things, which is not an easy problem to solve.
“This is a time to be comparing notes with friends. We have shared values we are both democracies that value the rule of law.”
There is also an opportunity for the Quad security partnership, which includes Australia, India, Japan and the United States, to offer assistance to Sri Lanka amid concerns of Chinese influence expanding.
“There is an opportunity to work with the core partners in terms of assisting Sri Lanka, but right now our focus is on how we, in a bilateral sense, can help Sri Lanka,” Mr Marles said.
“There’s a huge opportunity on both sides for much greater economic cooperation.”