New Delhi: In a hint to China, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Thursday said Quad countries holding the summit meeting in March was a “mark of the momentum” that is increasingly growing among like-minded countries.
Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue 2021, the Australian Prime Minister said Canberra intends to have a “strategic balance that favours freedom”.
“That meeting was historic, a historic first and a mark of the momentum that continues to be built amongst like-minded countries in our region,” he said in his pre-recorded keynote address.
“Four leaders of great liberal democracies in the Indo-Pacific, including, of course, my friend, Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, all leveraging our agency, working on a positive and inclusive agenda for the Indo-Pacific… Their sovereignty, their independence we passionately believe in for all nations within the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
India, Australia, Japan and the US held their first Quad Summit on 12 March in virtual format keeping an eye on China’s growing aggression in the Indo-Pacific.
The four Quad countries also conducted a joint maritime drill last year under the Malabar 2020 naval exercise.
India and Australia have the same “shared mission and purpose”, Morrison said, even as he highlighted the “deep friendship” between New Delhi and Canberra.
“We are not blind to the geopolitical realities. The Indo-Pacific is the epicentre of strategic competition,” he said, adding that tensions over territorial claims are growing and military modernisation is taking place at an “unprecedented” level, in a hint towards China.
Tensions between Australia and China have compounded in the last year since the outbreak of the pandemic even though he did not mention China’s name specifically.
“Democratic, sovereign nations are being threatened and coerced by foreign interference. Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated, including from state-sponsored actors and frequent economic coercion are being employed as a tool for statecraft. Liberal rules and norms are under an assault,” he said.
PM Morrison also said Australia sees India as a “natural partner” in “shaping the future of the Indo-Pacific region”.
‘World moving towards great polarisation’
According to Morrison, the world is now at a risk of moving towards a “great polarisation”.
“A polarisation between authoritarian regimes and autocracies and the liberal democracies that we love and a liberal set of values that underpin global world order that has delivered so much for the world,” he said.
The pandemic has pushed countries to derive a “durable strategic balance” in the Indo-Pacific, he said.
“The pandemic prompted new groupings of like-minded countries to work together like never before. New friendships forged and old ones re-energised,” he said.
Defence budget boost
During his address, PM Morrison also hinted at his plans to boost his country’s defence budget, which presently stands at 2 per cent of its GDP, which will be $270 billion in the next decade.
“That’s our floor, not our ceiling. Other nations know they can rely on Australia. This is important as we look ahead towards challenges that no country can take on alone,” he said.
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