INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR 2019 (IPE 19) is Australia’s largest ever Defence engagement activity with Sri Lanka.
At the helm of IPE 19 is Commander Joint Task Force 661, Air Commodore Rick Owen.
Air Commodore Owen said the Indo-Pacific engagement is a Joint Task Force which includes around 1200 Australian Defence Force personnel from the Navy, Army and Air Force. The Joint Task Force will visit Colombo and Trincomalee.
“What people will see is the Royal Australian Navy and their four ships visiting ports in Sri Lanka,” Air Commodore Owen said.
“But IPE 19 is more than that, its Joint Task Force will build on Australia’s reputation and the relationship we have with our regional neighbours,” he said.
The Australia-Sri Lanka defence relationship has grown steadily since 2015 with a strong focus on education and training, counter-people smuggling efforts and maintaining a rules-based order in the Indian Ocean.
Sri Lanka sits on a maritime corridor in the Indian Ocean which is vital for the security and prosperity of both nations.
Two-way trade in goods and services is worth $1.5 billion, and open, secure sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean are crucial for continued economic growth in the region.
Air Commodore Owen said the maritime lanes which connect the Indian and Pacific Ocean are historically strategic trading routes—which also connect Australia to the rest of the world.
“Australia recognises the importance of Sri Lanka in a stable Indo-Pacific region, so for IPE 19 it should come as no surprise it will be our first port of call,” Air Commodore Owen said.
“Sri Lanka is a partner of choice for Australia in the Indo-Pacific. Australia and Sri Lanka share this important Indian Ocean which laps both our shores, including its resources.”
As the maritime picture becomes increasingly contested, many of our near neighbours are increasing their naval and civil capability and, as put forward in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Australia is doing the same.
Australia is also increasing its focus on maritime issues at regional forums such as the East Asia Summit and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.
Australian Government Agencies will also look to collaborate on humanitarian aid and disaster relief, counter-terrorism and maritime safety and security with Sri Lanka, and other nations to promote confidence and cooperation.
As Air Commodore Rick Owen looks to deliver upon the Task Force objectives he warmly said
“What I’m looking forward to most is to catch up with old friends, make some new ones and enjoy the fantastic Sri Lankan hospitality."