Australian, Russian frigates dock at Colombo port

[TamilNet, Sunday, 08 March 2020, 17:19 GMT]
New Delhi has postponed the biennial multilateral naval exercise MILAN-2020 due to the ongoing deadly coronavirus outbreak. The drill was to be the biggest Indian-led maritime exercise involving navies from forty countries and was scheduled to take place between March 18 -28 off the coast of Visakhapatnam coast in the Bay of Bengal. In the meantime, the Royal Australian Navy, one of the countries to take part in the Indian-led war games, has sent its naval ship HMAS Parramatta to Colombo to engage with the SL Navy between 07 March and 11 March. Also, Russian Navy ship Admiral Vinogradov has arrived in Colombo Port on a four-day visit. Both the naval ships docked at Colombo port on Saturday.

The SL Navy said the Russian crew members were scheduled to take part in several programmes organized by the Sri Lanka Navy.

In the meantime, SL Navy Commander for Western Naval Area, Rear Admiral Sumith Weerasinghe, has met with Anita Mary Nemarich, the commanding officer of the Australian frigate to discuss matters of bilateral importance, another news release of the SL Navy said. The Australian naval crew would be taking part in a wide range of programmes, friendly sporting events and tours, the news release added.

HMAS Parramatta is a long-range frigate capable of countering simultaneous threats from aircraft, surface vessels and submarines.

Last year, Parramatta was visiting Trincomalee port.

India and Australia have been engaging in a bilateral maritime exercise known as AUSINDEX since 2015 as well as taking part in multilateral naval drills.

However, the countries are yet to engage in Quad-specific multilateral war games. Except for Australia, all the other three Quad partners, US, India and Japan conduct a trilateral naval exercise, known as Malabar exercise.

The basic Framework for Security Cooperation was entered between Australia and India in 2014. The countries are now finalising a logistics support agreement as well as two other pacts on information exchange and maritime affairs.

In the past, Australia has been reluctant to antagonize China by taking part in joint exercises with India. However, the trend will change, depending on the defence agreements, which are expected to be inked soon.

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Ann Payne while addressing a book launch, “Contest for the Indo-Pacific - Why China Won’t Map the Future (by Professor Rory Medcalf),” on 03 March said Australia remained committed to the principle of ASEAN centrality.

“We cannot, and we will not, be a passive player as the world changes in our region and more broadly,” she said.

The Australian Foreign Minister went on stating that one should not perceive Australia's engagement in the region “in terms of false binaries”.

“Our region is made up of much more than the strategic competition between the United States and China,” she said adding that “our approach to the Indo-Pacific has ASEAN centrality at its heart”.

Australia also wants India to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The RCEP involves ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and five of ASEAN's major trade partners, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

According to Indian media, New Delhi had invited around forty countries, except Pakistan and China, to the MILAN-2020 drills: Indonesia, France, Mozambique, Sudan, Israel, Qatar, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Somalia, Kenya, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Myanmar, New Zealand, the US, Tanzania, Comoros, Maldives, Brunei, Philippines, Japan, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Mauritius, Cambodia, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Kuwait, Iran, Madagascar, Bangladesh, Russia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Bahrain, UAE and Seychelles.

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External Links:
Hindustan Times: Indian Navy puts off its biggest exercise ‘Milan’ amid coronavirus scare
Daily Mirror: Royal Australian Navy ship in Colombo
Australian Department of Defence: Parramatta on Navy's first deployment of 2020
Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Launch of Rory Medcalf book: Contest for the Indo-Pacific - Why China Won’t Map the Future


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