Only last week, he had announced a “rebalance" of US troops to Asia, citing China’s aggressive posturing in the South China Sea and East China Sea besides the moves against India along the border. Japanese ships joined those of the Indian navy over the weekend for an exercise. Also on Wednesday, Australia announced $270 billion in military spending over the next decade, mainly to meet challenges in its immediate neighbourhood and the Indo-Pacific region.
That these countries are members of the “Quadrilateral"—that comprises India, the US, Australia and Japan—comes as no surprise. The group held its first meeting in November 2017 at the level of officials and also had its first meeting at the level of ministers last year.
Given China’s stance against India—the clash in Ladakh on 15 June with casualties that were the first in 45 years, China’s disregard for pacts signed with India to ensure border stability is maintained—analysts have been calling for India to completely overhaul its ties with Beijing. And this includes giving a military dimension to the “Quad."
The US relocating troops to Asia “is an important signal that the US will not sit and watch as China attempts to throw its weight around on the Sino-India border as well as in the South China Sea," said Gautam Bambawale, former Indian ambassador to China, Pakistan and Bhutan. “Even earlier, the US had moved three of its carrier battle groups to this part of the world as a clear indication of its resolve to tackle Chinese aggressiveness in Asia," he said in a recent opinion piece in The Economic Times, pointing to news reports that said that three US aircraft carrier strike groups were patrolling in the Indo-Pacific region in a signal to China of US resilience following novel coronavirus cases striking some of the US Navy’s operations.
“This is the time to admit Australia into our Malabar naval exercises. This is the appropriate time to strengthen the Quad and provide it a military angle. Now is the time to enhance our intelligence sharing with all these nations. By changing its force structure and posture, the US is signalling India that she supports us entirely," he added.
Unveiling the Australian government’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2024 Structure Plan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison seemed to strike a similar note stating that Indo-Pacific was the “epicentre" of rising “strategic competition", highlighting the border dispute between India and China as an example of increasing tensions over territorial claims in the region.