Australian minister welcomes Indian Coast Guard ship

Indo Asian News Service

Darwin (Australia)/New Delhi, Dec 4 (IANS) Indian Coast Guard patrol ship Sankalp Thursday arrived in Australia on a five-day visit, which Australian Minister Scott Morrison said demonstrates the "deepening and expanding" maritime security relationship between the two nations.

Morrison, minister for immigration and border protection, Thursday welcomed Indian Coast Guard Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessel (AOPV) Sankalp to Australia, after it arrived in Darwin harbour.

"Australia and India have a mature maritime security relationship, which will be strengthened by the implementation of the joint Framework for Security Cooperation announced by Prime Minister (Tony) Abbott and Indian Prime Minster (Narendra) Modi last month," Morrison said.

"Australia has recently joined India in becoming a member of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia," he said.

"Our two countries also share a common interest in combating other maritime threats in our region, such as illegal maritime arrivals, marine pollution, transnational crime, and illegal foreign fishing."

"The visit of AOPV Sankalp demonstrates the deepening and expanding maritime security relationship between our two nations," Morrison added.

In addition to further cooperation between the Indian Coast Guard and Australian border protection authorities, other key initiatives announced in the Framework include further bilateral maritime exercises, implementation of an annual joint working group on counter-terrorism and other transnational crimes.

The two sides have also agreed on cooperation on combating illegal migration, annual meetings of the Joint Working Group on Visas, Passports and Consular Matters, and further exchanges and cooperation between national customs authorities, which will include training opportunities, said an official statement.

AOPV Sankalp is the largest, Indian-designed vessel built for the Indian Coast Guard and is used for patrolling and policing maritime zones, pollution control, maritime firefighting, and search and rescue operations.

It will depart Darwin Monday, Dec 8. The ship visited Singapore Nov 23-26. After Australia, it will call on Jakarta Dec 17-20 before returning to Port Blair Dec 23.