Wary of China’s growing dominance in the Indo-Pacific, Australia’s new government reaches out to Quad partners India and Japan
By Ateet Sharma
New Delhi, June 21: Deeply concerned about China’s growing footprint, Australia said on Monday it was ready to work more closely with India to support an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific.
The assertion of the new government Down Under led by Anthony Albanese came as Richard Marles, Australia’s new deputy prime minister and also defense minister, kicked off his four-day visit to India.
Charting a new trajectory of transformational growth between the two strategic partners, Marles is the first senior Australian official to land in New Delhi after Albanese was sworn in as the country’s 31st Prime Minister on May 23.
Interestingly, he arrives in the Indian capital after holding talks with Japanese Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo in Tokyo – another partner in the four-nation Quad group – over the weekend.
Canberra recently expressed serious concerns about the Solomon Islands-China security agreement, the lack of transparency and its implications for maintaining regional security and stability.
Japan also raised concerns over the situation regarding the Solomon Islands, saying it could have a “major impact” on the security environment in the Pacific region.
Only three weeks ago, at the Quad Leaders’ Summit, the Prime Ministers of India, Japan, Australia and the US President voiced their support for a free and open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific.
“Our Quad partnership is needed more than ever to address the challenges and threats of a less secure world, to shape this world for the better, and to build a stronger and more cooperative Indo-Pacific region that respects sovereignty,” it said. Albanese in Tokyo, just a day after taking office as Australian Prime Minister.
Keeping in mind the rapidly changing geopolitical reality, Australia’s new government moved swiftly into action, strengthening the strategic partnership with like-minded partners.
On Monday, Marles called India Australia’s “closest security partner”, making clear that the new national government is focused on “revitalizing” Australia’s historically deep engagement with its allies in across the Indo-Pacific.
“Australia and India are comprehensive strategic partners. I am committed to strengthening Australia’s defense and security cooperation with India,” the Australian Defense Minister said.
Looking forward to his first bilateral meeting with India’s Defense Minister to strengthen the defense pillar of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, Marles said Rajnath Singh has been instrumental in fostering India’s defense relationship and Australia.
“The rules-based international order that has brought peace and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific for decades is coming under pressure, as we face shifts in the geostrategic order…Australia is ready to work more closely with India to support an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific,” he affirmed.
During the visit, Marles will also meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and hold talks with national security and defense policy makers and personnel.
Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2022, the annual Australian Defense Force (ADF) activity aimed at strengthening Australia’s engagement and partnerships with regional security forces, is also returning to India later this year.
India and Australia are already conducting joint activities in the Indian Ocean region to enhance operational maritime domain awareness, practice anti-submarine warfare maneuvers and enhance military interoperability.
Earlier this month, a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon aircraft was deployed to India as part of a joint India-Australia maritime surveillance initiative.
This builds on the successful deployment of an Indian P-8I aircraft to Darwin in April this year, when India and Australia first undertook coordinated maritime patrols in northern Australia.
“India is one of our closest security partners and this activity demonstrates the strength of our bilateral defense relationship, the tangible value of our comprehensive strategic partnership and our shared commitment to an open Indo-Pacific. , safe and prosperous,” the Air Vice Marshal said. Michael Kitcher, Australia’s Deputy Chief of Joint Operations.
The activities pave the way for deeper and more sophisticated operational cooperation between India and Australia.
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