Large earthquakes nucleate at tectonic plate boundaries, and their occurrence within a plate's interior remains rare and poorly documented, especially offshore. The two large earthquakes that struck the northeastern Indian Ocean on 11 April 2012 are an exception: they are the largest strike-slip events reported in historical times and triggered large aftershocks worldwide. Yet they occurred within an intra-oceanic setting along the fossil fabric of the extinct Wharton basin, rather than on a discrete plate boundary. Here we show that the 11 April 2012 twin earthquakes are part of a continuing boost of the intraplate deformation between India and Australia that followed the Aceh 2004 and Nias 2005 megathrust earthquakes, subsequent to a stress transfer process recognized at other subduction zones. Using Coulomb stress change calculations, we show that the coseismic slips of the Aceh and Nias earthquakes can promote oceanic left-lateral strike-slip earthquakes on pre-existing meridian-aligned fault planes. We further show that persistent viscous relaxation in the asthenospheric mantle several years after the Aceh megathrust explains the time lag between the 2004 megathrust and the 2012 intraplate events. On a short timescale, the 2012 events provide new evidence for the interplay between megathrusts at the subduction interface and intraplate deformation offshore. On a longer geological timescale, the Australian plate, driven by slab-pull forces at the Sunda trench, is detaching from the Indian plate, which is subjected to resisting forces at the Himalayan front.