Why is India such a player now?
I am hearing that a new Defence White Paper is being written for NZDF, the last one being in 2016 and a fair amount has changed to our sovereign risk exposure since then.
We’re used perhaps to thinking that Australia is just some big lunk sucking up to the United States and spending too much Defence budget on largely non-existent threats.
A lot changes in a few months. In March last year an arrangement called The Quad was formed to group Australia, India, Japan and the United States into an informal defence support arrangement.
This compact said useful things, such as:
We will continue to prioritize the role of international law in the maritime domain, particularly as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and facilitate collaboration, including in maritime security, to meet challenges to the rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas.”
But India is now in full play and knows it.
On Thursday Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did a two-day visit to New Delhi. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrived on the same day. On Wednesday the United States deputy secretary National Security Adviser Daleep Singh arrived. Last week Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did a virtual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi did a brief stopover. Two weeks ago Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also met with Modi. Also the foreign minister of Greece, and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. So much attention it’s time to get out the fan.
India has consistently refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in four separate United Nations resolutions.
The Quad’s other players haven’t much choice but to look past India’s moral slipperiness at the UN; they know it’s the only other military power able to push back against Chinese aggression into southern Asia without too much US assistance.
An immediate practical example of this is India’s active financial assistance to Sri Lanka to both stop it collapsing and also displace the influence of China within Sri Lanka.
The price of India’s support as an ally for anyone is going up, and it’s not yet clear what their full objectives are in upping this price.
Russia has been India’s trusted arms supplier for decades, and is now a supplier of discounted crude oil to New Delhi as Moscow recoils from sanctions and actively punishes European countries for daring to support Ukraine, and so has to find other customers.
India is one of the very few countries when asked which side are you on, can answer: India’s of course. New Zealand will never have that luxury, nor Australia. Analysts are taking stabs at the positioning of all of this. Perhaps they’d rather keep India in play with Russia, than China essentially keeping Russia from cracking up.
India is at the centre of the Indian Ocean and a vital long border with China. It’s a massive market for the world and for us, and potentially stronger growth prospects than China currently has.
India now represents a major problem/opportunity for Australia and hence for us.
It’s just one more risk element we’re likely to see reflected in Defence Paper 2022, and it’s one to watch.