This report assesses Australia’s Defence White Paper 2013 (70) from India’s point of view.
The recently released Australian Defence White Paper, which came a year ahead of schedule, has drawn more attention from India. Until a few years ago, India was reluctant to understand the strategic significance of the largest country in the Southern Hemisphere, which is to play a key role in the region encompassed by the geo-strategic term “Indo-Pacific”.
- The Australian Defence White Paper 2013 assumes a new importance from India’s point of view with the increasing significance of the geo-political term, “Indo-Pacific”.
- India’s shift of strategic priority from South-East Asia to the South-West Pacific – as per the “Look East” policy – is welcomed in the White Paper.
- India recognises that it will need to re-organise its Command and Staff systems with a view to Joint Operations in the Indo-Pacific in the years ahead, with countries such as Australia.
- Both India and Australia are wary of China’s increased maritime capabilities in the Indo-Pacific; both countries will co-operate with Washington to counter that.
- Increased Chinese pressure in India’s Northern Borders region, means that New Delhi will shelve allocating more resources to enhance its maritime capabilities and will focus on increasing its land and air capabilities.
Both India and Australia intend to expand their maritime capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region, as a way of countering Beijing’s increased military capabilities in the region. India’s role will be welcomed by countries in the region, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The outer strategic arc to contain Beijing’s maritime capabilities will be provided by the United States, with inner security arrangements provided by countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
There is one possible variant to this arrangement. If India feels more threatened by the Chinese military presence on its Northern Borders, such as the recent border incident at Leh in Ladakh, it will not hesitate to give more attention to increasing its Army and Land capabilities. This could include envisaging the formation of three mountain strike forces, meaning that India would have to shelve its plans for naval expansion, which may be of concern to countries that are involved in maritime strategic co-operation with India, such as Australia. This scenario was not discussed in the Australian Defence White Paper.