Australia to change its naval presence from Middle East to Asia-Pacific, China
Australia has announced that it will shift the presence of the Royal Australian Navy in the Middle East to Asia-Pacific and China amid the Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific region. Taking to Twitter, the official Royal Australian Navy announced that it will cease the ‘annual deployment’ of ships to the Middle East region. It further informed that it will be withdrawing from the International Maritime Security Construct post-December 2020.
According to a report by ABC News, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds stated that the country will withdraw from the US-led naval coalition patrolling the Strait of Hormuz by the end of 2020 in order to focus on its own region. She also spoke about the initiatives and tasks undertaken by the Royal Australian Navy. Speaking about it she said, “This year alone has seen the Navy respond to the bushfire and COVID-19 crises, a five-ship deployment throughout South-East Asia and the Pacific, a continued commitment to the initiatives under the Pacific Step Up, and several highly successful activities with our regional partners. As a result, the Australian Defence Force will reduce its naval presence in the Middle East to enable more resources to be deployed in our region.”
As per the ABC News report, this change was marked in the recent Defence Strategic Update which also noted the deteriorating strategic circumstances that would push the defence forces to focus more on the Indo-Pacific and Australi’s region. This comes just a few days after India announced that the Royal Australian Navy would take part in the Malabar 2020 exercise along with the US and Japan Naval forces. In an official statement on October 19, the Defence Ministry said, “As India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and in the light of increased defence cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy.”
This move has been hailed by the US and a group of US Senators also wrote to the Indian Ambassador to US Taranjit Singh Sandhu and said, “In the face of China’s rising military and economic assertiveness, strengthening of the Quad has become increasingly important. As the world addresses the fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, China has opportunistically looked to expand its military footprint across the Indo-Pacific. In response to these malign actions, the US has signalled its increased commitment to the region with the newly proposed Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which will complement the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) to provide a more robust military presence. However, without coordinated efforts among committed and capable partners, solitary actions will not sufficiently address these ever-evolving security challenges.”