labels: aerospace, defence
Australian defence minister, Brendan Nelson, starts visit on Wednesdaynews
10 July 2007
New Delhi: India's "Look East" policy will get another boost with Australian defence minister, Brendan Nelson, arriving in town on Wednesday for talks with his Indian counterpart AK Antony, the external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and the three service chiefs among others.

He arrives hard on the heels of the Vietnamese and Cambodian prime ministers, who have both upgraded existing defence relations with Delhi.

For Australia, the visit too would be aimed at upgrading strategic and defence ties with India, or at least trying to remove some of the mutual hostility and suspicion that have characterised bilateral relations in this sphere.

Australia has always cast a jaundiced eye at India's attempts to enhance its military and strategic capabilities, in particular its growing naval capabilities and enlarged presence in the Indian Ocean region.

A gradual thawing in relations between India and its staunch ally, the US, has also seen Australia shift its stance towards Delhi, ever so perceptibly.

As for this visit, India and Australia hope to build up on the bilateral MoU on defence cooperation signed during Australian prime minister John Howard's visit to New Delhi in March 2006.

According to government officials, greater interaction between the Indian and Australian navies, along with regular meetings of the newly constituted bilateral Maritime Security Operations Working Group, upgraded military exercises and high-level military exchanges are on the cards.

The two countries may also finalise an arrangement to share counter-terrorism, maritime security and other "classified" information.

Defence minister, Brendan Nelson, incidentally, arrives in India after a visit to China, and a meeting with PRC defence minister, General Cao Gangchuan, where he would have assuaged Chinese concerns about an attempt being made to hem in China by other nations in the region.

Lately, a certain amount of squealing has begun to emanate from mainland China about an emerging nexus in the Asia-Pacific region, the so-called "axis of democracy", an informal grouping of four nations - the US, Japan, Australia and India.

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Australian defence minister, Brendan Nelson, starts visit on Wednesday