Three Indian warships arrived in the port city of Freemantle in Western Australia on June 13 to participate in a week-long naval exercise off the Western Australian coast.

The so-called Exercise Australia-India (AUSINDEX) is the first-ever bilateral military exercise in Australian waters involving the Indian Navy and Royal Australian Navy and aims to develop “a deeper understanding and cooperation between the two navies,” according to an Australian Department of Defense statement.

As my colleague Ankit Panda pointed out last month, this exercise will be the second overall bilateral naval drill between the two countries, following the first-ever AUSINDEX held in the Bay of Bengal in 2015. Both countries have also held a number of other military drills over the years.

“AUSINDEX is a terrific opportunity to increase our interoperability and enhance the professional interaction of two great navies,” the commander of the Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, said. “Amidst a very busy operational program for the Indian Navy, I am pleased to welcome their ships to Fremantle and look forward to a challenging and rewarding sea program,” he added.

“AUSINDEX is the centerpiece naval exercise held between Australia and India and is an important component of this year’s fleet program,” Mayer emphasized.

Politically, the joint naval drill will be of special importance for the two countries as India declined an Australian request to participate in the Indian-led Malabar naval exercise this year, which involves the navies of India, Japan, and the United States out of a fear of antagonizing China.However, speaking at Fremantle, the commanding officer of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet, Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, said the final decision was yet to be made, ABC News reports.

“The proposal for Australia to participate in Malabar is still resting with the Indian Government,” he said. “We are waiting to hear the outcome as much as you are. I think it is a decision which is pending at the Indian Government level and we will abide by whatever decision comes out.”

Indian warships participating in AUSINDEX 17 include INS Kamorta, the first of four anti-submarine Kamorta-class stealth corvettes; the INS Shivalik, the lead ship of India’s first class of stealth multi-role frigates; and the INS Jyoti, a Komandarm Fedko-class replenishment oiler. Australia will sent the Adelaide-class guided missile frigate HMAS Newcastle, one of four Adelaide-class guided missile frigates currently in service with the Royal Australian Navy; the Collins-class diesel-electric submarine HMAS Waller; as well as an elite diving and special operations unit, Clearance Diving Team Four.

A number of P3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force are also slated to participate in the drill. The exercise will take place between June 17 and 19.

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