Australia, Japan AND India Eye the Dragon in the Room


China’s “aggression and assertiveness” in the Indo-Pacific will be one of the key agendas during Australian and Japan Prime Ministers’ visit to India this month. While Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is scheduled to visit India from 8-11 March, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will be arriving in New Delhi on 19 March for a one day visit on 20 March. Diplomatic sources told The Daily Guardian that Chinese belligerence in the Indo-Pacific will be one of the top agendas during talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting leaders. “During bilateral talks with his Japanese and Australian counterparts, PM Modi will also make it a point to bring up Chinese aggressions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC),” sources said. “China’s expansionist activities in other geographies of the world including African nations would also figure during discussions,” sources added.
The upcoming visits of Australian and Japanese premiers become all the more important in the backdrop of China increasing its military and defence budget by a whopping 7.2 per cent to USD 225 billion. Canberra and Tokyo are partners of India in the Quad. “Therefore, as Quad allies all these premiers would definitely discuss the implications of China increasing the military budget and spending, and the ways to deal with any kind of challenge that may be posed by belligerent Beijing in future in the Indo Pacific,” say diplomats.
What is more remarkable about the development related to the hike in the Chinese military budget is that its focus will be on training and preparation for war. The Chinese government announced that “armed forces should intensify military training and preparedness across the board”. India is also analysing the implications of the hike in the defence budget of China, sources said. “But India would like to use the opportunity to be provided by the visits of Australian and Japanese premiers to discuss it and prepare some plans to ramp up the defence cooperation among the Quad partners so as to be ready to face any challenge together. Even though the Quad is not a military alliance, all the partners have between them bilateral defence and strategic ties that should be reviewed and deepened,” diplomats said.
Quad partners — US, India, Australia and Japan — will be closely watching how China plans to spend the defence budget for the development of its military, especially as tensions have spiked in recent years over Taiwan and along the borders with India. The remarks of outgoing Chinese premier Li Keqiang are something that is quite important in this context. In an address to the largely rubber-stamp legislature, Keqiang said, “Our armed forces, with a focus on the goals for the centenary of People’s Liberation Army in 2027, should work to carry out military operations, boost combat preparedness and enhance military capabilities.” Japan and Australia are likely to deepen defence and economic cooperation with India even as PM Modi holds talks with Albanese and Kishida. The meetings will be important in the light of the development on the defence and military front in China.