by Raman Iyer
Melbourne, Nov 4 – India, Australia and the US should come together to form a trilateral security pact to counter the rising naval power of China, a report by three think tanks has concluded.
“I think it’s an idea whose time has come,” Amitabh Mattoo, director of the Australia India Institute at Melbourne University, told The Australian Friday.
“It’s not a dialogue which is confronting anyone, it’s a dialogue about maintaining Asian security,” he said welcoming the proposed trilateral security dialogue.
The paper — Shared Goals, Converging Interests: A Plan for US-Australia-India Co-operation in the Indo-Pacific — also urges Australia and the US to get Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum membership for India.
“Liberal democratic powers in the Indo-Pacific share a strategic interest in enhancing a web of relationships that promote economic and political stability, security, continued free and open trade throughout the region, and democratic governance. US-India-Australia trilateral cooperation should be a critical element of this underpinning,” the paper launched here Friday reads.
The joint project by scholars from India’s Observer Research Foundation, Australia’s Lowy Institute and the Heritage Foundation in the US asks for modest start to the trilateral pact but envisages expansion into serious “operational areas”.
“In time, these might include surveillance, maritime expeditionary operations, anti-submarine warfare and perhaps even integration of theatre missile defence,” reads the paper jointly written, among others, by Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Rory Medcalf and Lisa Curtis.
Interestingly, the paper launched by three think tanks from India, Australia and the US notes lack of warmth in Indo-Australia bilateral relations. India cold shouldering Australia as a “priority security partner” is attributed to “Canberra’s failure to change its policy banning uranium sales to India for civil purposes”.
The issue of reluctance to sell uranium to India has been hitting the Australian news headlines with regular frequency in the past few weeks.
The paper does express optimism that Indo-Australian relations are bound to improve with passage of time.
“Australia and India have rich opportunities to expand their practical defence collaboration, not only in maritime exercises and patrolling, but also, for instance, in some major military acquisitions,” the paper notes.
The fact that China has initiated endeavours to include South China Sea as its “core national interests” has also been mentioned in the joint paper.
The Chinese Navy confronting an Indian ship off the coast of Vietnam has found mention. “The dynamic of Sino-Indian competition at sea is likely to intensify as Chinese interests expand westward and India’s expand eastward,” the paper reads. (IANS)