Interaction with Dr. David Brewster on Multilateral Engagements in the Indo-Pacific Region
Printer-friendly versionSend to friend

Dr. David Brewster, a well known Australian maritime expert and author of ‘India as an Asia Pacific Power’, held a comprehensive interaction with the VIF’s strategic faculty on 07 September 2016 aimed at analyzing potentials for developing a tri-lateral partnership between India, Australia and the United States in the Indo-Pacific region. The interactions were held broadly against the backdrop of two recent developments: a ruling passed by the international tribunal in July 2016 declaring China’s jurisdiction over so called ‘nine-dash-line’ in the South China Sea as invalid; and, the recent logistics sharing agreement signed between India and the United States giving both the nations the flexibility to use each other’s military assets.

Dr. Brewster, who has just completed a detailed study on the subject, shared the key findings of his latest research ‘Australia, India and the United States: The Challenge of Forging New Alignments in the Indo-Pacific’ with the VIF faculty, ostensibly with a view to gauze out Indian reactions thereto. He argued, among other things, that defence and security cooperation between India and Australia have not witnessed natural progression despite both countries sharing common values and challenges, and being geo-strategically located in the Indian Ocean region. Some might even see them as odd couple of the Indian Ocean region. However, the emergence of new dynamics in the region, especially the rise of China and India’s own 'Act East' Policy, make it imperative that both India and Australia not only forge closer cooperation with each other but also mobilize new partnerships and ad hoc coalitions among the ‘middle powers’ of the Asia-Pacific, an exercise that will fulfill each other’s strategic needs, and also provide common security in the Indian ocean region.

Dr. Brewster however also pitched strongly for upgrading the bilateral engagement between India and Australia to a trilateral cooperation by including the United States in a potential strategic troika. Such a troika becomes imperative, especially in view of the logistics sharing agreement, signed between the United States and India recently. While the agreement allows the United States to use the Indian military facilities, including ports and bases, it also gives India the freedom to use those military logistics of the United States which are placed around the region, including in Australia. A trilateral cooperation will help the armed forces of three countries understand each other better and conduct operations seamlessly, especially during search and rescue operations and against non-traditional security threats. Shared use of training facilities, building a system of shared maritime awareness domain in the Indian Ocean, joint exercises at sea and on land, among others, could form the supporting pillars of such a trilateral cooperation. Dr. Brewster, however, underscored that India’s penchant for strategic autonomy as also the differences in perception are among potential impediments to building a resilient strategic partnership. While building trust and habits of cooperation are crucial to building a long term partnership, the three countries can however selectively cooperate in specific projects in the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea.

The Indian interlocutors, while in agreement with the need for cooperative security in the Indian Ocean region, however remained skeptical about the extent to which India can rely on Australia as a decisive factor in balancing China, especially keeping in view Canberra’s deep economic engagements with China. Showing their preference for a measured and incremental approach in developing strategic relations with Australia, they also explored the possibilities of reviving the QUAD, with Canberra as a potential observer. With Gen NC Vij, Director, VIF, in the Chair, Amb Rajiv Sikri, Amb DP Srivastava, Lt Gen VK Saxena and Vice Adm Satish Soni, among others, formed the panel that interacted with Dr. Brewster.

Event Date 
September 7, 2016
Contact Us