Bilateral ties elevated to “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”; Indian Navy gets “strategic access deep into the Indo-Pacific region.”
India and Australia inked a series of defense agreements on Thursday aimed at countering Communist China’s growing military aggression in the region. Both countries elevated their ties to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” at a video summit between Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.
The military logistics pact, signed as part of this partnership, gives the Indian Navy “a strategic access deep into the Indo-Pacific region,” The Times of India newspaper reported. The agreement gives “reciprocal access to each nation’s respective military bases,” Japanese newspaper The Nikkei explained.
The partnership between the two countries comes as Beijing militarizes the South China Sea by building artificial islands equipped with naval harbors, air strips, and military bases. In recent months, Communist China has threatened many of its neighbors, including New Delhi and Canberra. Last week, Chinese troops crossed the Indian border and fortified positions along the Himalayan frontier, reigniting a 60 year-old conflict.
“We are committed to an open, inclusive, prosperous Indo-Pacific and India’s role in that region, our region, will be critical in the years ahead,” Morrison said. Amid China’s growing land grab in the South China Sea, the Australian leader added: “We share an ocean and we share responsibilities for that ocean as well.”
India is comprehensively committed to rapidly strengthening its relations with Australia. “This is not only important for our two nations but also for the Indo-Pacific region and the whole world,” Modi said.
Indian business daily Economic Times reported the details of the strategic agreements:
India and Australia have stepped up bilateral relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and have concluded nine arrangements including Mutual Logistics Support for their militaries amid China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.
In a significant development, the two sides also announced a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region that would result in enhanced cooperation in the maritime domain.
The long anticipated pact for sharing of military logistics will strongly step up cooperation and will give Indian warships and aircraft enhanced reach towards the Pacific. India has similar arrangements with US and France which enables easy resupply and fueling of military assets at each others bases around the world.
At the first ever virtual bilateral summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he believed that it was the “perfect time and perfect opportunity” to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
“India-Australia relations have deepened. And this depth comes from our shared values, shared interests, shared geography and shared objectives… How our relations become a ‘factor of stability’ for our region and for the world, how we work together for global good – all these aspects need to be considered,” Modi said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called India a “trusted friend of Australia” and a “pioneer in technology.” “India has been a positive force in these trying times and our relationship with India is a natural one. The time has come for broader and deeper ties. India has been a pioneer in technology – an area that is key today and will be so in future,” he said.
This defense partnership is part of a growing U.S.-led alliance to counter Chinese aggression. The agreement “is also expected to strengthen a quadrilateral partnership that includes Japan and the U.S. and is seen by analysts as part of efforts to contain China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific,” Tokyo-based business daily The Nikkei reported.
“The United States, Japan and some other countries have expressed concerns over China’s expansion, fortification and militarization of small islets that it controls in the resource-rich area and have cited possible threats to the free movement of international shipping and aircraft,” the Japanese daily added.
Australia is one of the few U.S. allies openly standing up to China in the region. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been calling for an independent inquiry into Beijing’s handling of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. “Now, it would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again,” Morrison said on April 29.
China responded to this demand by threatening to boycott Australian goods. Beijing has also been waging a trade war with the country, imposing crippling 80 percent tariffs on Australian grain exports. The India-Australia strategic agreement “comes as both countries attempt to counter rising Chinese influence in the Pacific, and amid Australia’s stoush [clash] with China over an investigation into the origins of coronavirus and a decision by Beijing to impose an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley,” Australian public broadcaster SBS noted.
The strong alliance between India and Australia is key to countering Communist China’s military build-up in the region. As I wrote in my article published by the Gatestone Institute on May 19: the “world is looking to India and its Asian Pacific allies, in a strong alliance with the West, to take a stand and face China’s increasing military, geopolitical and economic intimidation.”
‘India and Australia join hands to counter China’
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