Thursday, 20 November 2014

India, Australia To Strengthen Strategic Ties, Counter China

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a clear indication that New Delhi is fully prepared to counter Beijing’s increasing influence in the Asia Pacific region.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a clear indication that New Delhi is fully prepared to counter Beijing’s increasing influence in the Asia Pacific region. On Tuesday, Modi and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott decided to bolster the bilateral strategic partnership on the basis of ‘converging political, economic and interests’. In Canberra, the two PMs discussed various aspects of bilateral relations and expressed serious concern over China’s attempts to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean region.
Modi and Abbott finalised a framework for security co-operation between the two countries. They also decided to hold annual meeting to assess the co-operation. According to the statement issued by the Indian External Affairs Ministry, the defence ministers of the two ‘friendly’ nations will hold regular meeting in the coming days. India and Australia will also hold annual defence policy talks and regular joint naval manoeuvres, apart from co-operating in defence research and development. Meanwhile, the Australian media reported that the confirmation of the security framework came only after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s departure from Canberra (after attending the G20 Summit).
Political experts are of the opinion that the current geopolitical situation in the Asia Pacific region has forced New Delhi and Canberra to strengthen bilateral defence ties. As China is racing ahead of Australia, Japan and India, the interests of Canberra, Tokyo and New Delhi have sharply converged. As a result, India and Australia announced the new ‘Framework for Security Co-operation’ for close collaboration in defence, counter-terrorism, cyber security and maritime security.
In a joint statement, governments of the two countries said: “Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and Prime Minister (Tony) Abbott decided to extend defence co-operation to cover research, development and industry engagement. They agreed to hold regular meetings at the level of the defence minister, conduct regular maritime exercises and convene regular Navy to Navy, Air Force to Air Force and Army to Army staff talks.” Although the two leaders further decided to push for a free trade pact between their countries, the defence co-operation was more important.
Former Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal said that it was a crucial development and the Modi administration pursued a strategy to protect the region from China’s unpredictable actions. “The Modi government is playing its cards astutely. While India is taking steps to improve economic ties with China, it is also pursuing a strategy aimed at checking China. It’s a wise approach,” he told the ‘Hindustan Times’ daily. Indian defence analyst Lieutenant General (Retired) B S Jaswal stressed: “Beijing’s hegemonic attitude will continue if not checked.”
Israel, too, is eager to ramp up strategic ties with India. A couple of days back, Israel said that China is its trading partner, but India is a ‘strategic’ one. The Israeli authorities also announced that they would not revive arms trade with Beijing in the future. With sales worth USD 1 billion-USD 1.5 billion every year, India is currently No 1 arms market for Israel and Jerusalem is planning to concentrate only on the South Asian country in the region as far as the arms trade is concerned.
In its latest report, the Israeli Defence Ministry said that the West Asian nation currently exports defence equipment worth USD 7 billion annually to India, but hardly anything to China in the last decade. The volume of annual trade between India and Israel is around USD 5 billion and the signing of a Free Trade Agreement can easily double the volume, the report said.
While welcoming the Indian PM’s commitment to taking ties with Israel to a new level, senior Israeli officials have said that no one should question Jerusalem’s relation with Beijing and dilute it with the strategic partnership with New Delhi.
Source : Defence News

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