From Punjab to Poseidons: The Aussie-Indian duo soaring skies in the RAAF

By Our Reporter
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RAAF Country Liaison Officers, Flight Lieutenants Inderbir (Inder) Singh (left) and Darpan (Dev) Dhawan (right) with Indian Navy Naval Air Operations Officer INAS 312, Lieutenant Sanjana Kamat and Qualified Navigation Instructor INAS 316. Lieutenant Commander Lokesh Kumar // Photo: PTE Dean Armstrong // Pic supplied

In a tale that weaves together cultural heritage, friendship, and military alliance, Flight Lieutenants Inderbir Singh and Darpan Dhawan symbolise the growing ties between Australia and India. Both Australian Indian migrants, these young officers serve as integral members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), bridging the gap between two powerful nations.

Flight Lieutenant Singh, hailing from Ludhiana in Punjab, and Flight Lieutenant Dhawan, born in Delhi, migrated to Adelaide in their youth. Their paths crossed at an Australian high school, a friendship blossomed, and they joined the RAAF in 2014 while pursuing engineering degrees.

Since their enlistment, they have served at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia and RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland. But it’s their joint experience at international military events like Exercise Malabar that really stands out.

Exercise Malabar is a significant Indo-Pacific naval activity. It fosters collaboration amongst key regional partners, such as India, Japan, and the United States, in support of an open and resilient Indo-Pacific. During this exercise, the Royal Australian Navy had the honour of hosting the navies of these partner nations, with air support from advanced aircraft like the RAAF F-35A Lightning II.

Leading Aircraftwoman Buj Nike and Flying Officer Lincoln Rolfe stand in front of a P-8A Poseidon aircraft at RAAF Base Amberley in QLD during Exercise Malabar 2023 // Photo: PTE Dean Armstrong // Pic supplied

Flight Lieutenant Singh plays a pivotal role as Country Liaison Officer (CLO) during these engagements, facilitating cultural understanding and effective communication between the Australian Defence Force and the Indian Armed Forces. As he says, “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.”

This cooperation was beautifully exemplified during India’s 76th Independence anniversary celebrations in Australia, where a traditional Aboriginal Welcome to Country ceremony was performed. Among the attendees were Indian Navy officers Lieutenant Commander Lokesh Kumar and Lieutenant Sanjana Kamat.

Lt Commander Kumar, who hails from a three-generation legacy of military service, values the opportunity to participate in exercises like Malabar. It enhances cross-cultural interactions, global awareness, and camaraderie. Similarly, Lt Sanjana Kamat, visiting Australia for the first time, appreciates the exchange of ideas and aviation practices that foster relationships between nations.

RAAF Country Liaison Officers, Flight Lieutenants Inderbir (Inder) Singh (left) and Darpan (Dev) 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) // Photo: PTE Dean Armstrong // Pic supplied

The tale of Flight Lieutenants Singh and Dhawan reflects a broader narrative. Australia and India’s relationship is at a historic high point, especially after the signing of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020. Indian migrants constitute Australia’s fastest-growing diaspora, and the cultural and strategic alignment between the two nations continues to deepen.

In this age of globalisation, the story of two friends from different Indian cities, migrating to Australia, joining the same high school, and then serving their adopted country in the RAAF, exemplifies how borders can be transcended. It’s a story of unity, friendship, and shared values, symbolising the ever-strengthening bond between Australia and India.


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