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Australia, Japan PMs To Arrive In India This Month, China Will Be On Agenda

While Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be in India from 8 to 11 March, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will arrive in Delhi on 19 March for a one-day official visit on 20 March

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With China increasing its military budget by 7.2 per cent to USD 225 billion, QUAD allies Australia and Japan are heading to India to deepen defence and economic cooperation, despite Beijing's "no limit ally" Russia criticising the informal but powerful forum of India, US, Australia and Japan.

While Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be in India from 8 to 11 March, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will arrive in Delhi on 19 March for a one-day official visit on 20 March. Both countries are India's closest allies, with late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually co-founding the revived QUAD.

Despite the fact that the three countries, along with the US, have a very close relationship in terms of information exchange on virtually any topic, the hot topic of discussion this time will be forging defence cooperation and establishing resilient global supply chains in light of the ongoing Ukraine war and Chinese belligerence in the Indo-pacific.

The Xi Jinping regime has increased its military budget to USD 225 billion, which is more than India's (USD 73 billion), Australia's (USD 48.7 billion), and Japan's combined budgets (USD 51 billion). To make matters worse, the Chinese military budget is higher than the published figure because revenues from its expanding military-industrial complex are reinvested in military spending, and this figure is also in the billions of dollars.

The increased spending is intended to prepare China for three major threats: being invaded (as in Taiwan), toppled (as in Sinkiang or Xinjiang) and separated (read Tibet). The picture of which countries China considers adversaries become clear as any military crisis over the Senkaku Islands or neighbouring Taiwan has a significant impact on Japan, and military consolidation in Tibet and Xinjiang puts pressure on India.

The Chinese PLA, backed by ambitious Beijing, is on an expansionist path that is causing friction with Australia as Xi Jinping forges military cooperation in the Far Pacific and, along with Russia, has attacked the AUKUS alliance. The AUKUS alliance will boost Australia's maritime capability by providing Canberra with nuclear-powered conventionally armed submarines to patrol its domain.

Despite the fact that the situation along the 3488-kilometre Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China is stable, there has been no de-escalation of PLA forces from the border since Beijing attempted to unilaterally change the ground situation in East Ladakh in May 2020. While the Indian opposition parties try to provoke the Modi government into a miscalculation with China, the Indian Army is fully prepared for any emergency with contingency plans in place.

The Indo-Pacific is one of the main agendas for India, Australia and Japan, with the expansion of the Chinese Navy and its intermediate-range conventional and nuclear missile arsenal being a major concern.

Over the years, Chinese strategic surveillance ships have consistently mapped the Indian Ocean bed as well as the Lombok and Ombi-Vetar ingress routes to the South China Sea, as nuclear or conventional submarines must surface if they cross into the Indian Ocean via the Sunda or Malacca Straits from the South China Sea. The Lombok and Ombi-Vitar channels, close to Australia, are deep enough to accommodate submarines without the need for surfacing.

While India, Australia, and Japan have a logistics agreement and participate in the Malabar naval exercises, India and Japan's military cooperation will only deepen if Tokyo abandons its pacifist doctrine and decides to share advanced military technology with New Delhi, such as lithium-ion technology for diesel attack submarines. Given the three countries' geographical locations, close defence cooperation will enforce mutual security and act as a deterrent to expansionist forces in the Indo-Pacific.