America’s Indo-Pacific Allies Working Together to Help Deter China

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America is not the only country with an interest in countering the threat of an aggressive Communist China that’s intent on world domination. Its allies in the Indo-Pacific are keenly interested in preserving a free and open region as well.

In a meeting last week between Australia and India, Australia’s defense minister said that for both of their nations, China is their biggest trading partner as well as their biggest security anxiety.

Indian and Australian officials met in New Delhi, where Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defense Minister Richard Marles discussed further deepening economic and strategic collaboration with their Indian counterparts. Significantly, Indian officials seemed far more willing to identify China as a primary security challenge than they have been in the past.

This is only the latest in a series of meetings between members of the Quad—a diplomatic and security network among the United States, Australia, India, and Japan—throughout this year. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited both India and the United States this year, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted President Joe Biden back in September.

At last week’s meeting, China in the context of regional security was the primary point of discussion between the Australian ministers and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of External Affairs Subramanyam Jaishankar. Marles stated, “For both of us, China is our biggest trading partner. For both of us, China is our biggest security anxiety.” Jaishankar commented positively about “real momentum” in the India-Australia relationship.

Marles stated that in the increasingly polarized world, and even in their own countries, unity against a common threat is essential. The Australian and Indian defense ministers referred to future collaborations regarding artificial intelligence, air-to-air military jet refueling, and anti-submarine and anti-drone warfare.

The defense ministers seek to establish a security “routine” and recognize that a strong defense partnership would “augur well” for security in the entire Indo-Pacific, not just for their own countries. The overall message was clear: They will not roll over for China.

Australia has been subjected to attempts at economic coercion over the years, with the Chinese imposing trade bans and tariffs to punish the Australians over both economic and political disagreements.

In 2018, an Australian law banning Chinese company Huawei’s 5G network—and later, its calls for an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic—prompted a breakdown in Australia-China relations that took years to restore. Now, new Australian collaboration with the U.S. and U.K. on nuclear submarines has not been well received in Beijing.

Australia’s and India’s issues with China have a military dimension as well. Last week, an Australian military diver was injured after a Chinese warship “acted in a dangerous manner” by operating its sonar while the diver was underwater, even though the Australian warship had notified the Chinese Navy destroyer that the diving operation was underway.

Meanwhile, India is engaged in an ongoing border dispute with China that has turned violent in recent years, with China still claiming over 50,000 square miles of Indian territory.  

These serve as reminders that, while potential Chinese military action against Taiwan remains the most dire threat at the moment, there are multiple other potential flashpoints in the region, including new provocations by Chinese forces against Filipino vessels in the South China Sea.

America’s partners and allies in the Indo-Pacific offer a contrast to some of those in Europe, given their willingness to increase defense spending and invest in militaries that are capable of acting as force multipliers to U.S. troops in the region. Having allies willing to take concrete steps to counter China is a key part of the broader American-led effort to deter China and rally regional democracies to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.

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