Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles called out China over its aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea, saying that its appalling behaviour is akin to what India saw at the LAC. Pointing out China’s attempt to challenge the rules-based order, Richard, who was speaking at National Defence College, said, “China is seeking to shape the world around it in ways that we have not seen before and that has evolved over the last decade. In the last few years, we are seeing a more assertive China.”
He added, “We have seen that in the South China Sea and with India along the LAC two years back, the appalling behaviour with Indian soldiers. We stand in solidarity with India in respect of that incident (Galwan). For us, we are experiencing that in the South China Sea (SCS). In SCS, the construction of artificial islands and island reclamation are taking place. Be it LAC or SCS, China is challenging the established rules-based order which is important for the region.”
Stating that the world should have paid heed to the India-China clash in 2020, he said, “The assault on Indian forces along the Line of Actual Control in 2020 was a warning we should all heed. Australia stood up for India’s sovereignty then and continues to do so now. It is vital that China commits to resolving this dispute through a process of dialogue consistent with international law. The global rules-based order matters everywhere, including in the highest place on earth,” he said.
One of the challenges that then pose to countries like Australia and India, are trade ties with China. In this context, it becomes imperative for both countries to build stronger ties. Richard expressed, “China is our biggest security anxiety and so is for India. At this moment it is really important that we are reaching out. We are friends exchanging notes. We are working closely to build our relationship in terms of economic and defence together.”
Speaking on Australia’s ties with India, he further stated, “We also share geography, Australia is an Indian Ocean country and we have security ties and much economic activity in the region. Indian-Australian is the fastest growing community. The Indian Australian community is the largest growing community. We believe we are on the cusp of change.”
Further talking about China’s military capabilities, Richard said, “China’s military build-up is now the largest and most ambitious we have seen by any country since the end of the Second World War. It is critical that China’s neighbours do not see this build-up as a risk for them. Because without that reassurance, it is inevitable that countries will seek to upgrade their own military capabilities in response.”
Richard Marles is on a four-day visit to India. A bilateral meeting was held between him and Rajnath Singh on Wednesday, wherein the two leaders reviewed the regional security situation and reaffirmed the objective of an open, free and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.