By Tetsuo Kogure in Sydney and Takeshi Narabe and Takashi Funakoshi in Beijing
In July, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that he will increase his country’s defense spending by 270 billion Australian dollars (about 20 trillion yen) over the next 10 years. “Today, the Indo-Pacific is the epicenter of strategic competition,” he said with China in mind.
In April, Australia pushed for an international study on China’s initial response to the novel coronavirus. Since then, relations between the two countries have declined to an almost unprecedented low. Australia cannot stand up to China alone so it attaches great importance to the “Quad” framework.
On the other hand, India is unlikely to elevate the relationships with Japan, the U.S., and Australia to the level of a multilateral alliance against China. Like the other three, India also must address the threat of China. The military conflict that took place in June in its border region with China resulted in India’s first deaths there in 45 years. However, China is India’s second-largest trade partner after the U.S. “India doesn’t want to aggravate its relationship with China any further. It has no desire for the Quad framework to have military implications,” according to a diplomatic expert.
India’s Modi administration is expected to seek a balance between closer cooperation with the three Quad partners and relations with China. India is playing up its close friendship with the countries involved in the free and open Indo-Pacific initiative to demonstrate to China that it is capable of taking part in efforts to contain China, if it so chooses. This will boost India’s footing so that it is not taken advantage of by China.
China is deeply alarmed by the U.S.-led containment efforts. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that all initiatives for multilateral cooperation should remain open and transparent and must not infringe on the rights of third parties.”