Mar 16, Colombo: Australia has launched the annual multilateral defense cooperation exercise Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPE 19) which will bring an Australian Defense Force (ADF) Joint Task Force to Sri Lanka and several other South and South East Asian nations with the aim of strengthening ties with their militaries.
One thousand ADF personnel will carry out a series of activities and military training exercises during port visits in India, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
The defense exercise launched with the departure of HMAS Canberra, frigate HMAS Newcastle, and tanker HMAS Sirius, and HMAS Parramatta from Fremantle in Western Australia, will begin from Sri Lanka.
The first port call for the flagship of the group, landing helicopter dock ship HMAS Canberra, will be Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Acting Australian High Commissioner Jon Philip at a media conference held in Colombo on Friday said that the Australian ships would undertake port visits in Colombo and Trincomalee. Royal Australian Air Force P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft will also visit Mattala Airport.
They will engage in activities with Sri Lankan military personnel and 29 officers will travel in the ships as they leave Colombo.
Asserting that the two countries have shared interests, he said it would be a valuable opportunity for both countries to improve cooperation and familiarity with each other's defense forces, and to explore opportunities to further promote regional stability. He asserted that Sri Lanka is a partner of choice for Australia.
Speaking at the media briefing, Australian Defense Advisor, Captain Sean Unwin said this was the biggest defense engagement with Sri Lanka to date.
Unwin said Australia-Sri Lanka defense relationship had grown steadily since 2015 with a strong focus on education and training, supporting the whole-of-government counter-people smuggling efforts and maintaining a rules-based order in the Indian Ocean.
He said their engagements in Trincomalee will focus on the Navy-to-Navy engagement between their two countries with a particular focus on interoperability between clearance diving teams focusing on explosive ordinance disposal counter-IED techniques.
Following exercises in Sri Lanka, the ships will then depart for India.