China is the Zombie of the Indo-Pacific and is not happy with the “exclusive clique”
On 19th October, the Indian Ministry of Defence issued a release on the forthcoming trilateral India-U.S.-Japan Malabar exercises, noting that this year’s iteration would include Australia. “As India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and in the light of increased defence cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy,” the press release stated. The exercise is expected to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea later this year.
Minister for Defence of Australia, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said “Exercise MALABAR 2020 marked a milestone opportunity for the Australian Defence Force. High-end military exercises like MALABAR are key to enhancing Australia’s maritime capabilities, building interoperability with our close partners, and demonstrating our collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Exercise MALABAR also showcases the deep trust between four major Indo-Pacific democracies and their shared will to work together on common security interests.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, said “the announcement was another important step in Australia’s deepening relationship with India. This builds on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, to which Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Modi agreed on 4 June 2020, and which I progressed with my counterpart, Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar, this month when we met in Tokyo. It will bolster the ability of India, Australia, Japan and the United States to work together to uphold peace and stability across our region.”
Exercise Malabar initially began in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the United States. The annual Malabar series includes diverse activities, ranging from fighter combat operations from carriers through Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercises. Japan joined the exercise as a permanent member in 2015, but Australia has not engaged since 2007.
It is the only exercise where all four members of the QUAD (India, Australia, United States, and Japan) engage in naval exercises, counter-piracy, counter-terrorism operations, and magnify inter-operability between each other with the principle aim of supporting a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
It also comes in response to the escalating tensions between China and QUAD members. Over the years, China’s expansionist policies have led to diplomatic and military aggravation among smaller nations in South-East Asia, Central Asia, India, and Japan. The whole geopolitical landscape has been drastically changing for the past two decades. A momentous paradigm shift can be seen among nations in South Asia towards the western world as China slowly flexes its economic and military muscles.
WHAT SHOULD WE BE EXPECTING FROM THE KANGAROO?
Australia ups ante against China by accepting India’s invitation to the Malabar exercise. This exercise will bolster military ties and enhance military activities between the QUAD nations. China, in a statement, said that it has “taken note” of India’s announcement that Australia will join this year’s Malabar exercise. It has been suspicious about the purpose of the Malabar exercise as it feels that the annual war game is an effort to contain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia’s induction in the Malabar exercise was expected and perceived as a germinating affirmation of the seriousness of the reconvened QUAD. Initially, India was cautious of Canberra’s inclusion, has shed it amidist a monthslong border standoff with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army this year. There is now a consensus among major democracies in the world that China is a threat — to political systems and open societies, economic self-reliance, and a rules-based regime, particularly in the international seas.
China-Australia ties have gone for a toss amidst escalating trade disputes, which is likely to turn into a full-blown trade war. China has slapped massive tariffs on Australian imports, which has costed the businesses in the Commonwealth with massive losses in billions of dollars. Australia’s overwhelming reliance on China for its exports will cost it dearly over the years. The trade disputes have coincided with Australia’s push for an investigation in the coronavirus pandemic, which was impossible for the Communist regime to digest.
A CHANCE FOR INDIA TO PUSH TIES WITH AUSTRALIA
Australian High Commissionar to India the Hon Mr Barry O’Farrel said “Australia and India have never been closer friends. Its a friendship with depth, marked by what I call the four Ds – Democracy, Defence, Diaspora and Dosti.”
After five decades of distant strategic relations, India and Australia began in the early 2000s to forge an increasingly cooperative defence and security partnership. The primary drivers were similar concerns about China’s rise, behaviour, and assertiveness, as well as converging views about the regional strategic landscape
Today, the bilateral relationship between India and Australia is far broader and more cooperative than it has been at any time in history. India has become Australia’s fifth-largest export destination (up from twelfth at the turn of the century), and Australia is now a top 20 trade partner for India.
“The Australia–India defence relationship now encompasses almost every major area of military partnership, namely (i) strategic dialogues, coordination, and intelligence exchanges, including those involving third countries; (ii) military exercises involving ground, air, and especially maritime forces that reflect a growing degree of interoperability; (iii) military-to-military exchanges and training; and (iv) defence commerce and technological cooperation. However, all four areas, and especially the last, are at a nascent stage of partnership with considerable room for improvement,” says Dhruva Jaishankar.
Australia’s escalating tensions with Beijing have shown up its reliance on China trade and propelled a push to increase links with Asia’s other giant economy, India. “We can sell India education, health care, and there’s potential in science and technology,” said Ian Hall, a professor of international relations at Griffith University in Queensland. “It’s much more the consumer market of India’s growing middle class than goods.”
Australia’s support to India during the LAC stand-off was unexpected which led a verbal spat between the Chinese and the Australian envoy to India. Chinese mouth peace Global Times termed it as Australia taking sides in the India-China conflict. According to Global Times “Chinese experts warned India of Australia’s instigation on the eased border standoff with China after Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell expressed support for India over the issue during a recent meeting with the Indian external affairs minister. The commissioner’s remarks claiming that “Australia supports continued moves by India for de-escalation” at the LAC (Line of Actual Control) and “opposes any attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo” in an interview on Thursday after the meeting was seen by Chinese observers as Australia standing with India and shoving the blame against China while conveying its opinion over the China-India border tensions. “Taking sides on India is not a surprising move from Australia as it is consistent with the country’s role in the global picture – a stooge of the US and an increasingly-close partner of India.”
Stakes are high, and India must grab the opportunity to enter the Australian market, which will lead to an exponential boost in economic ties and promote the “Make in India” initiative. Grab the market when you can. India will never be a superpower if it stays neutral and silent. As I mentioned before, India needs to be the Bad Boy.