Standing side by side

Two RAAF members combined their Indian and Australian heritage to facilitate cultural understanding during this year’s Exercise Malabar.

CAPTIONRAAF country liaison officers Flight Lieutenants Inderbir Singh (left) and Darpan Dhawan chat with Indian Navy naval air operations officer INAS 312 Lieutenant Sanjana Kamat and qualified navigation instructor INAS 316 Lieutenant Commander Lokesh Kumar (right). Story by Flight Lieutenant Claire Burnet. Photo by Private Dean Armstrong.

Flight Lieutenants Inderbir Singh and Darpan Dhawan, who were both born in India, worked alongside members of the Indian Armed Forces during the premier Indo-Pacific naval activity involving key regional partners operating in support of an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific.

Australia hosted the navies of India, Japan and the United States, with air participation from RAAF F-35A Lightning II and P-8A Poseidon, Indian Navy P-8I and US Navy P-8A aircraft.

Flight Lieutenant Singh, born in Ludhiana in the north Indian state of Punjab, migrated with his family to Adelaide when he was 12.

Flight Lieutenant Dhawan, born in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, migrated with his family to Adelaide when he was 10.

They attended the same Australian high school and joined the RAAF in 2014 while studying engineering at university. They also posted to RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia, followed by RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland, albeit at different wings.

Still great friends, they are proud to put their dual heritages to good use during activities such as Exercise Malabar.

Working as a country liaison officer (CLO) during Indian engagements such as these, Flight Lieutenant Singh facilitates cultural understanding, effective communication and collaboration between the ADF and the Indian Armed Forces.

“A CLO plays a vital role in a joint military exercise that is much more than just language interpretation,” Flight Lieutenant Singh said.

“We help build bilateral relationships to contribute to the overall success of joint exercises and lead to greater regional stability, security, and long-term cooperation.”

Flight Lieutenant Singh joined the Indian Navy in celebrating India’s 76th anniversary of independence while it was in Australia for the exercise.

Among those enjoying the cross-cultural ceremony was Indian Navy qualified navigation instructor INAS 316 Lieutenant Commander Lokesh Kumar and naval air operations officer INAS 312 Lieutenant Sanjana Kamat.

For Lieutenant Commander Kumar, who is based at INS Hansa naval aviation base in the south-west city of Goa, Exercise Malabar was his first opportunity to visit Australia.

He joined the Indian Navy in 2013 to honour his family’s three-generation legacy of serving in the armed forces.

“I chose to join the Navy for its crucial role in shaping our nation’s geopolitical landscape,” Lieutenant Commander Kumar said.

“Participating in multilateral exercises like Malabar allows us to learn from partner countries, exchange tactical knowledge, and refine operational capabilities.

“They provide an important opportunity for cross-cultural interactions in diverse settings, improve global awareness, broaden perspectives and build camaraderie.”


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