Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday held telephonic conversation with his Australian counterpart Richard Marles to strengthen defence co-operation between the two countries. The conversation between the two came on a day when Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tried to improve the bilateral relations during his visit to INS Vikrant by emphasising that “India (is) at the heart of Australia’s approach to the Indo-Pacific and beyond”.

The Defence Ministry stated that “both the ministers reaffirmed their commitment towards further strengthening the bilateral defence relationship” during the conversation which, it believed, was reflective of the trust and friendship the two countries shares.

India and Australia are pursuing a comprehensive strategic partnership and the defence cooperation between the two countries has been consistently deepening in recent years. Rajnath Singh’s visit to Australia is also due. Both the nations are also keen to forge an industry engagement to explore opportunities in India’s push for Aatmanirbharta in defence sector.

Talisman Sabre exercise

Anthony Albanese, on board the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, also announced that later this year Australia will host Exercise Malabar for the first time. India will also for the first time participate in Australia’s Talisman Sabre exercise, he added.

He also talked about Australia-India General Rawat Defence Officer Exchange Program which is going on as of now. A 15-member Australian contingent, including four female officers from the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force visited the Agra-based Shatrujeet Brigade on Thursday along with 15 selected Officers from the Indian Army, Navy and Airforce.

“This pioneering exchange programme, created by Prime Minister Modi, will ensure our defence personnel develop the familiarity and trust that underpins a close and long-lasting relationship,” the Australian PM stated.

Both Indian and Australian officers were taken through a series of training demonstrations related to fighting in built-up areas by paratroopers of the elite formation during the visit, Army sources said.

“This platform has given the young officers, who are the cutting edge of Armed Forces of both countries, unique exposure to foster defence ties and cooperation between both the countries by understanding the cultural and professional aspects,” Army sources observed.

Later the officers interacted with paratroopers of Shatrujeet Brigade to understand the unique role of the strategic airborne formation of Indian Armed Forces.