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Australia, India sign historic defense agreement amid tensions with China

A Collins-class guided missile submarine is moored at Royal Australian Navy (RAN) base HMAS Stirling, Australia. Diesel-electric Collins-class submarines, tailored specifically for Australian defense and a two-ocean surveillance role, are designed to be as quiet as advanced technology can achieve. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)
July 04, 2020

Australia and India signed a defense agreement in the midst of rising tensions with China in early June.

According to Asia Times, the agreement, officially called the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement, “will improve interoperability of the two sides’ respective military forces to allow for more engagement.” India and Australia are both working to constantly surveil the waters surrounding the Andaman, Nicobar and Cocos Islands, which have recently received unprecedented attention from China.

“India has reported increased activity by Chinese submarines and surface ships, while Australia has been monitoring oceanographic surveys conducted by Beijing,” the Asia Times reported.

A Defense Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement will also enhance cooperation between the two country’s research organizations.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times reported that the partnership is being viewed as “a joint effort between India and Australia to counter China.”

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The Global Times went on to say that China has had some friction with both countries recently; they believe the move will only intensify the existing tensions under an article with the headline, “Will Aussie, India coordinate to confront China?”

The Australia-India arrangement was first discussed back in 2007 as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, but was tabled by New Delhi out of concerns the deal would cause trouble with China.

India decided to proceed with the deal despite those concerns. The most eye-catching part of the India-Australian agreement is the reciprocal access to military logistics facilities. It allows access to military facilities, which includes food, water, fuel, spare parts, and other components.

“In the current geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific, these islands can provide advantages for strategic, practical, and signaling purposes,” said Indian academic Darshana Baruah, who is involved in a two-year study of Indian Ocean strategy at Australia’s National Security College.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison “lifted ties to the level of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP)” following a virtual summit.

India has similar CSP deals with the U.S., Japan, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The agreement also solidifies the previously-unsettles quadrilateral security arrangement, frequently called the “Quad,” with Australia joining the U.S., Japan, and India.

“Their common interests in dealing with rifts with China do play a role in urging the two countries to coordinate strategically, which deserves China’s vigilance,” The Global Times said, warning this would “shape a confrontational atmosphere in the region, jeopardizing peace and stability.”