New Delhi, Jun 23 (PTI) China is the “biggest security anxiety” for Australia as it is seeking to shape the world in a way that was not seen before, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said on Thursday.
Marles, on a four-day visit to India, also said that India too has similar security concerns and that Australia stands in solidarity with New Delhi over its border row with China in eastern Ladakh. In an interaction with a group of journalists, the visiting Australian minister also expressed concern about growing defence and security cooperation between China and Russia, suggesting that it could have implications for the region.
Marles, who is also Australia’s defence minister, said both New Delhi and Canberra are strongly committed to expand defence and security ties as his country sees India as “completely central” to its world view. “For Australia, China is our largest trading partner and so is for India. For Australia, China is our largest security anxiety, that is also the same for India,” he said.
India and Australia are working closely together to build our relationship economically but also in the context of defence so that together we are engaging more deeply to enhance the defence and security of both our nations, Marles said. In an apparent reference to the Galwan Valley clashes in eastern Ladakh over two years back, the Australian deputy PM said his country stands in solidarity with India in respect of that incident.
“China is seeking to shape the world around us in ways that were not seen before. We are experiencing particularly recently in the last couple of years more assertive Chinese behaviour in respect of that,” he said. “It is really important that we live in a world where there is a rules-based order, where disputes between countries are resolved as per a set of rules and in a peaceful way,” Marles said.
Referring to expanding defence and military cooperation between China and Russia, he expressed apprehensions about its impact and said it is very important to maintain peace in the world. On the Ukraine crisis, the Australian deputy PM said: “what we are seeing in UKraine is having an impact on global food supply and that is a real concern.” When asked about the Quad comprising India, Australia, the US and Japan, Marles said it is not a security alliance as there is no defence pillar to it.
On AUKUS (Australia, the UK and the US), he said it is not a security alliance as technology sharing was its main objective. The AUKUS partnership was announced in September last year that will allow Australia to get technology to build nuclear-powered submarines. In their wide-ranging talks, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Marles on Wednesday resolved to further expand bilateral defence and military ties in sync with the India-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership.
It is the first high-level visit to India from Australia after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s centre-left Labour Party came to power last month defeating predecessor Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition in parliamentary elections. The ties between India and Australia have been on an upswing in the last few years.
In April, the two countries inked a trade pact to diversify bilateral trade. In June 2020, India and Australia elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signed a landmark deal for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support. The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) allows the militaries of the two countries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies, besides facilitating scaling up of overall defence cooperation.
The Australian Navy was part of the Malabar naval exercise hosted by India in November 2020 as well as last year.