While President Joe Biden’s administration has been caught napping over the China-brokered diplomatic deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the foreign policy legacy of former President Donald Trump is still bearing fruit in the Indo-Pacific region.

After President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo strengthened the U.S.-led Quad alliance (which includes India, Australia, and Japan), India and Australia have been strengthening their defence cooperation in the face of China’s increased military spending and aggressive build-up in the Indo-Pacific.

China’s “planned budgets for the year put defence spending at 1.55 trillion yuan ($225 billion), a 7.2 percent rise and the quickest rate of increase since 2019,” the France24 TV channel reported earlier this week. In January, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered the People’s Liberation Army to remain “ready for combat” after a series of border clashes with the Indian military.

As Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is on a visit to India this week, both countries have announced a comprehensive defence cooperation, including in the areas of weapons manufacturing, officers training, and joint military and naval exercises.

“India and Australia are pursuing a comprehensive strategic partnership and the defence cooperation between the two countries has been consistently deepening in recent years,” Indian daily The Hindu reported Thursday. “Both the nations are also keen to forge an industry engagement to explore opportunities in India’s push for Aatmanirbharta in defence sector,” the daily added.

An Indian newspaper Reported Friday:

India and Australia are planning new military drills to strengthen security cooperation as Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned on the charm to welcome his counterpart to the South Asian country for a first official visit.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced new military exercises to be held with Indian forces in a speech on board the INS Vikrant aircraft carrier on Thursday. For the first time, India will participate in Australia’s Talisman Sabre exercises, along with the US.

“For Australia, India is a top tier security partner,” Albanese said in a speech in Mumbai on Thursday. “And there has never been a point in both of our country’s histories where we’ve had such a strong strategic alignment.”

The ramp up in defence ties between Australia and India will help strengthen the so-called Quad, a group of democracies banding together to counter China’s growing influence. Japan and US are also members of this alliance.

Amid regular border skirmishes with Chinese troops along the shared 2100-mile border, Indians are keen to learn tactical skills from their Australian counterparts. The Indian newspaper Economic Times reported Thursday that during a recent military exchange program “Indian and Australian officers were taken through a series of training demonstrations related to fighting in built-up areas by paratroopers of the elite formation.”

Australia-Japan-India: A Trilateral Alliance As Counterweight To China

India and Australia have been joined by Japan, which also eyes China’s growing military might with anxiety.

Noting the ongoing military cooperation between the three Quad member, the newspaper Hindustan Times reported Monday:

While Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is scheduled to visit India from March 8-11, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is arriving in Delhi on March 19 for a one-day official visit on March 20. Both countries are very close partners of India with late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually co-founders of revived QUAD.

Although the three countries along with the US have a very close relationship with information exchange on virtually any topic, the hot topic of discussion this time will be forging defence cooperation and setting up resilient global supply chains due to the ongoing Ukraine war and Chinese belligerence in the Indo-Pacific. The Xi Jinping regime has hiked its military budget to USD 225, which is more than the combined budgets of India (USD 73 billion), Australia (USD 48.7 billion) and Japan (USD 51 billion). To make matters worse, the Chinese military budget is higher than the released figure as revenues from its growing military-industrial complex are ploughed back into military spending and this figure also runs into billions of USDs.

The strategic intent of the increased spending is to prepare China against three major dangers: invaded (read Taiwan), toppled (read Sinkiang or Xinjiang) and separated (read Tibet). The picture of which countries China considers as adversaries become clear as any military emergency over Senkaku Islands or neighbouring Taiwan will seriously impact Japan, and military consolidation in Tibet and Xinjiang will put pressure on India. Backed by ambitious Beijing, the Chinese PLA is in an expansionist mode and is running into friction with Australia as Xi Jinping forges military cooperation in the Far Pacific and along with Russia has hit out at the AUKUS alliance. The AUKUS alliance will strengthen Australia’s maritime capability by providing Canberra with nuclear-powered conventionally armed submarines to patrol its area of influence.

Albeit the situation all along the 3488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China is stable, there has been no de-escalation of PLA forces from the border since Beijing tried to unilaterally change the ground situation in May 2020 in East Ladakh.