Indians and Australians want to increase military cooperation. Both countries have open disputes with Beijing. Exercises also in the Quad. Indian expert: Dialogue between India, Australia, the US and Japan goes beyond responding to the Chinese threat. China is India’s biggest trading partner.
Delhi (AsiaNews) – Yesterday the navies of India and Australia concluded AUSINDEX 2021, four days of naval exercises off the Australian port of Darwin. At the same time, the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries opened their first strategic dialogue in the Indian capital.
Concerned by China’s growing military activism in the Indo-Pacific, the two governments have intensified security relations. Peter Dutton, head of Australia’s defence department, and his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh stressed that the strategic partnership between Canberra and Delhi is based on a shared vision for an Indo-Pacific that is ‘free, open, inclusive and governed by [international] law’. The same approach used by the US to counter China’s rise in the region.
Dutton and Singh explained that their governments will work to strengthen military cooperation in areas such as information sharing, joint technology development and logistics. Canberra then invited the Indians to participate in 2023 in Talisman Sabre, the largest war simulation organised by the Australians.
In late August, Australia and India also conducted joint naval operations with the US and Japan off Guam in the Western Pacific. This was the first phase of the annual Malabar programme. For most analysts, the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) exercises between the four nations, which have become increasingly complex over the years, clearly target China, which has various conflicts with Washington, Tokyo, Canberra and Delhi. For Beijing, the Quad is a potential ‘Asian NATO’.
According to Swaran Singh, professor of international studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University of Delhi, it is improper to associate the Quad only with security aspects linked to the Chinese threat. The Indian academic tells AsiaNews, “The QUAD being evolved with a narrow security focus on China; it’s a much broader framework that recently saw its Leaders’ Summit setting up three working groups on climate change, critical technologies and for rollout of vaccines.” Singh goes on to note that the much-publicised naval exercises of the Quad countries focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as much as on China’s growing influence.
Of the Quad nations, India is the one with the most nuanced approach to Beijing’s advance. Delhi is very critical when it comes to border disputes with the Chinese along the Himalayan chain, much less so when it comes to China’s naval activities in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. Even in times of pandemic, Beijing remains Delhi’s leading trading partner: in 2020 the two countries exchanged goods worth just under 68 billion euros; the Indians, however, recorded a deficit of 34.8 billion euros.