The UK’s latest defence review re-commits Westminster to the Indo-Pacific with a “tilt” to the region that is intended to enhance diplomatic and trade relations between London and its Indo-Pacific partners. While a renewed British presence will be welcomed by many, for China and its partners, it is more likely to be seen as an expansion of the informal US-led “anti-China” alliance.
Since Brexit, the British Government has called for a strategic reorientation of British foreign and security policy towards the Indian Ocean region. That reorientation will witness an expanded British presence in the Indian Ocean, with the Royal Navy in particular adopting a proactive role. If the UK is to step up successfully in the Indian Ocean, building closer co-operation and deeper ties with allies in the region will prove essential.
The call by the leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries at their recent virtual summit for a free, open, inclusive and healthy Indo-Pacific region has rattled China. The Quad is an instrument to ensure a rules-based Indo-Pacific, but it will need teeth to be effective in that role. While the Quad in its present form may not be structured to check adventurism, it certainly has the potential to become a most effective instrument for doing so. The reaction from Beijing indicates that it has put China on notice.
China targeted Australian wine as part of an economic coercion programme in 2020. Australian wine imports were also seen as a threat to the Chinese wine industry, which was a domestic driver of the trade barriers that Beijing erected. As those barriers are unlikely to be removed in the near term, the Australian wine industry will need to adapt to them.
Successive Myanmar governments have exploited the inability of the international community to exert any real pressure on the country’s military leaders, who are increasingly supported by China. Whatever policies are adopted by the international community over the short term, there are no quick or easy answers to the complex questions surrounding modern Myanmar.
Djibouti at a Crossroads: China’s African Engagement and an Adversarial Beijing-Washington Relationship
Djibouti’s geostrategic position and willingness to host the military forces of external powers, including of the United States and China, continues to draw the country to the centre of great power politics. Beyond the wider strategic concerns emanating from US-China rivalry, the confined space of Djibouti presents a potential opportunity for the two powers to improve their co-operation at close range because instability and insecurity in the Red Sea and western Indian Ocean Region are equally disadvantageous for both Washington and Beijing.
The “post-truth” age has inflicted serious harms on Pakistan, and the authorities are now making a concerted effort to control social media because it has gained the power to deconstruct official narratives. In also making people aware of their past errors and prompting them to find the truth, social media is thereby transcending the boundaries imposed by the judiciary-military mix.
Eighteen months after the ratification of the Australia and Timor-Leste Maritime Boundary Agreement, the development of the Greater Sunrise hydrocarbon field remains just a “pipe dream”, with the revenue-sharing formula still open to conjecture.
The islands of the south-western Indian Ocean – Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Réunion and Seychelles – sit astride important chokepoints and Sea Lines of Communication and are gaining prominence in India’s strategic calculus. Enhanced statecraft, a forward presence of the Indian Navy and closer relations with France, including via a “Quad Plus” security dialogue, are ways for India to step up its engagement in the region while also contributing to the continuation of the rules-based order in the waters around the Vanilla Islands.
Despite serious current issues, Australia’s export reliance on China as a key destination for commodity exports will continue, but concurrent initiatives to broaden and grow the export base have to be pursued. While Australia has an unequivocal global advantage in resources and human capital, a 50-year strategy with practicable, achievable pathways to achieving a broader and deeper export base should still be developed.