India and Australia are planning new military drills to strengthen security cooperation as Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned on the charm to welcome his counterpart to the South Asian country for a first official visit.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced new military exercises to be held with Indian forces in a speech on board the INS Vikrant aircraft carrier on Thursday. For the first time, India will participate in Australia’s Talisman Sabre exercises, along with the US.
“For Australia, India is a top tier security partner,” Albanese said in a speech in Mumbai on Thursday. “And there has never been a point in both of our country’s histories where we’ve had such a strong strategic alignment.”
The ramp up in defense ties between Australia and India will help strengthen the so-called Quad, a group of democracies banding together to counter China’s growing influence. Japan and US are also members of this alliance.
Albanese’s announcement followed two days of highly-choreographed pomp and ceremony to celebrate his trip to India, the first by an Australian leader since 2017. Shortly after arriving, Albanese took part in Holi celebrations to mark the start of spring, getting his face daubed with color and being showered with marigold petals.
On Thursday, before his trip to the INS Vikrant, Albanese traveled to meet Modi in Ahmedabad to watch the start of the fourth cricket test match between India and Australia. The two leaders entered the stadium, named after Modi, on a glitzy gold chariot to rapturous applause.
The Indian prime minister has often sought to use foreign leader visits to boost international visibility for Ahmedabad — the largest city of his home state Gujarat. Modi has hosted former President Donald Trump as well as Japanese and Israeli leaders in the city in push to offer an alternative view to the city’s association with deadly anti-Muslim riots in 2002 which occurred while he was the state’s chief minister.
The two leaders will meet in New Delhi on Friday, after which they are expected to announce a deal on critical minerals.
Albanese will then head directly to the US where he will meet with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to announce the plans for Australia’s fleet of nuclear submarines, built under the Aukus agreement.