The governments of India and Australia agreed last week on a series of pacts that include reciprocal access to each other’s military bases. The move came after hundreds of Chinese and Indian troops are being mobilised against each other along the disputed border between the two states.
One of the biggest results of online “virtual summit” between Australian Prime Minister and his Indian counterpart was elaborating of the military pact. The signed document raises the relationship between the two nations to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” with definite military implications, clearly directed against China.
A joint statement issued by the two PMs did not explicitly name China as its target, but the language echoed Washington’s anti-China propaganda.
The COVID-19 epidemic has delayed many face-to-face meetings between the global leaders, however, Australian Scott Morrison and Narendra Modi have found the way to continue the cooperation in the military field.
In fact, the Indian government’s frontline role in the escalating confrontation by the Trump administration against China is rising. Following Modi and Trump’s phone conversation last week, the Indian cabinet has begun moving soldiers from other sectors, including those facing Pakistan, toward the contested “Line of Actual Control” that separates India and China in Ladakh.
The official readout of the June 4 Trump-Modi conversation specifically stated that they discussed the Sino-Indian border standoff and the supposed need to reform the World Health Organisation (WHO).
After signing the military pact, Australia and India confirmed again they “share a vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region to support the freedom of navigation.”
In the start of online meeting, Morrison thanked Modi “for your leadership, not just within India, but more broadly throughout the G20, the Indo-Pacific and the stabilising and constructive and very positive role that you have played in these very difficult times.”
According to the Australian PM, partnership is in line with India’s increasing engagement in the Indo-Pacific region through her Indo-Pacific vision and Australia’s Indo-Pacific approach and its Pacific Step-Up for the South Pacific.
There has been overwhelming support within Australia’s corporate, political and media elite for the alignment with India and the US, despite qualms over the impact on the many billions of dollars at stake annually in revenues from China.
As part of the US drive, the Australian ruling class is trying also to open up new markets in India to offset its reliance on commodity exports to China. Both PMs agreed to “recommence” talks over an India-Australia trade deal, suspended since 2015, after nine inconclusive rounds of talks.