Amid the euphoria of what will be an historic movement for the Palestine struggle for recognition by the UN, was a news item in the Times of India that grasped for attention.
It was the news of a new troika building up around the Indian Ocean. It is indeed a first step towards a trilateral grouping in Asia. This new engagement between India, Australia and Indonesia is seen to be a significant development as the three countries seek to hedge against possible Chinese expansionism.
Chinese adventurism is a key concern for countries in the region particularly in East Asia.
As reported, the premises of the new troika’s operation would be within the framework of the 20-nation Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).
The IOR-ARC seeks to strengthen trade and investment among countries around the Indian Ocean intended to serve as a base to expand intra-regional trade. India views the IOR-ARC as a regional initiative that can be and effective medium to enhance individual and collective capacities of nations to deal with contemporary challenges facing the common maritime domain of member nations.
Much to the chagrin of China – which prefers bilateral arrangements to sort maritime disputes- the IOR-ARC, could well turn out to be a more appropriate substitute to ASEAN when it comes to holding up against Chinese expansionism in the continent.
Now that, the three nations have thought about moving forward to form a troika to deliberate on strategic challenges that they face, it is pertinent to reflect upon the dynamics of relations between the three countries.
Thankfully enough, Australia’s relation with India is getting back to normalcy after a tumultuous few years – the nuclear test, attack on students, migration concerns and uranium sales have been few issues that have marred the relations between both the countries. However even during this tumultuous period there have been vibrant bilateral trade and economic relations. Australia is also now coming around to look at India as a strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific region.
Like India, Australia’s relation with Indonesia has also seen its highs and lows. However, considering its close geographical proximity, Indonesia is an important partner for Australia with strong diplomatic and trading ties.
In light of these above developments, it may also be noted that Japan and India have also proposed the starting of a bilateral group to discuss security in the South China Sea. It may be noted that the South China Sea hold strategic importance to both countries. In line with this objective both the countries are looking at undertaking joint military exercises in the Indian Ocean.
These bilateral and trilateral strategies along with others if combined could in fact prove to be a potent bloc against Chinese expansionist tendencies.