Indian Navy is a natural partner of Australia

There’s immense scope for further deepening naval cooperation between India and Australia, according to Captain Justin Jones, Commander of Royal Australian Navy Ship HMAS Success, which has docked at the Chennai port.

"Indian Navy is a natural partner of Australia… Australia is as much an Indian Ocean power as a Pacific power. Both India and Australia face similar challenges in the Indian Ocean region. Both countries also share close defence ties and share common values," Captain Jones told The Hindu in an interview on board the ship.

The combat logistics ship arrived here on Monday morning. Following its stay in Chennai, HMAS Success will carry out a passage exercise with ships of the Indian Navy to practice communicating and cooperating with each other at sea.

India and Australia conducted their first joint naval exercise last year in the Bay of Bengal in a sign of growing defence cooperation between the two countries. "The joint bilateral exercise was a natural progression of relations between India and Australia," said the Captain.

In 2013, at the special invitation of Australia, the Indian Navy had sent its indigenous warship INS Sahyadri to Syndey to participate in the International Fleet Review. The two navies had also worked together in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Both nations had participated in multilateral drills as well such as the Malabar exercise of 2007.

Asian waters, however, also face competition and tensions as a rising China is becoming more and more assertive on its controversial claims and is attempting to extend its influence across the region. Asked about the maritime disputes in the region in which China is involved, the captain said Australia is "walking a fine line" on such issues.

"China is our most important trading partner. But the U.S. is our strategic and security partner. So we don’t actually have to take sides. Regarding the South China dispute, the Australian position is that the disputes should be resolved in accordance with the international law," he added. The 30-year-old HMAS Success, which has participated in several combat missions, including the first Gulf War of 1991, is on a four-day goodwill visit to Chennai. During the stay, Captain Jones, along with Australia’s High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu, and Consul-General to South India Sean Kelly, will meet with the Mayor of Chennai, SaidaiDuraisamy.