Politics,Climate Change and Sundry issues

Politics,Climate Change and Sundry issues
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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Australia beckons India: more antagonism from the Abbott Government toward China - » The Australian Independent Media Network

Australia beckons India: more antagonism from the Abbott Government toward China - » The Australian Independent Media Network

Australia beckons India: more antagonism from the Abbott Government toward China

Is the Abbott Government playing a major part in inflaming and destabilising the security of the Asia-Pacific Region? Dr Strobe Driver reports.

Prime Minister Abbott’s quest for the attention of right-wing
nationalists’ that are seeking to contain China has swung from the
United States of America (US), to Japan and is now making its way
further West into the Indian Ocean. This time to increase a military
attachment to another forgotten ‘ally’: India. This is a circle of
madness and it will be to Australia’s detriment that this government has
continued the cycle started by the Rudd-Gillard governments with the
deployment—and then ongoing rotation—of US marines through the Northern
Territory. There is a reason for this ongoing madness which needs to be
addressed in light of history in the Asia-Pacific (A-P) region.

With the knowledge that Australia has punched far above its weight in
the region since the end of World War Two, consecutive governments have
sought to keep this modus operandi alive; and as a continuum in their
foreign policy objectives. As a result of this, Australia has regularly
invested itself in military collisions either directly in the region or
external to the A-P in order to bring about enhanced ‘security’ and
‘stability.’ The eventual aim of these incursions has been, and no doubt
will continue to be, that countries which Australia decides to
intervene into should convert to the Western liberal-democratic model of
government; and governance. Australia has entered the fray of regional
collisions in places such as Central Asia (Afghanistan), the Middle East
(the Persian Gulf), Southeast Asia (Vietnam), East Timor/Timor Leste
and of course numerous other regional locations that have ‘needed’
Australia’s presence—the Butterworth Air Force Base in Malaysia and
Australia’s use of it as a forward-defence locale is an example of
involvement without an actual collision of forces taking place. Whether
or not Australia’s involvement in the aforementioned has been beneficial
to those that have experienced Australia’s direct (read: military)
assistance and whether Australia entered these places voluntarily or was
coerced by other state actors—the US in particular—are moot points and
beyond the scope of this essay, suffice to say Australia has made its
presence known and continues to believe that actual force and/or the
threat-of-force remain apparatuses that ensure stability.

As with many a country that has experienced the thrill of exercising
extramural power due to either location or military transport
capabilities, the days of Australia utilizing forward-defence and/or
embarking upon actual incursions should be disbanded, as it encourages
continual usage of a governance mechanism that is backed by force, and
this model generates backlashes. More to the point, the world has
changed from the days of Western Eurocentric and European-models of
government and governance being passively accepted by other
nation-states. Regardless of the heart-warming feelings the
Western/Eurocentric world may have toward the model that has been 
successfully executed since 1648 through mercantilism, trade,
suzerainty, protectorates, colonialism, forced alliances,
post-colonialism state-making—Kuwait, Israel, and the dividing up of the
spoils of Africa amongst Europe is to mention only several examples of
deliberate state-making—with the addendum of brute force, will not alter
the coming inevitable and unpalatable truth. The time is fast
approaching to acknowledge the overarching and heretofore unquestioned
influence of the West is in decline, and hence the rise of China is
taking place. The era pax-Sino is the new reality.

Extrapolating on the abovementioned, the new
problematics for the West, and for Australia in particular, is that the
Abbott government, by actively seeking out these new alliances is also
indulging in the suppression of this reality. Raging against the
military, economic, geo-political and geo-strategic rise of China
signals a fear of disengagement from the superlative-version of Western
history which was one of having control of the high seas and (in later
years) the airspace above for centuries. This will not remain the case
into the future and holding onto history signals an unwillingness to
admit to the reality of the situation-at-hand: the era of pax-Sino
is not only the new reality, it is fast-arriving. Therefore, no amount
of foreign policy enmity shown to the People’s Republic of China (PRC)
through scrambling around trying to find new Asia-Pacific allies will
change this and moreover, it is sending a supercilious message to a
country that will exercise the most control over the A-P region
regardless of whether there are policies of containment directed toward
it or not. Overt messages toward India by the Abbott government is
foolhardy and is disavowing China’s place in the region, which in turn
will encourage China to ignore Australian input into regional
machinations. The dismissal of China’s input into regional ministrations
by Australia in recent times has succeeded in infuriating China.  This
has been reflected in newspaper headlines such as, ‘Australia and India
to strengthen military ties’[1] with regard to India, and ‘Defence alliance to anger China’[2]
with regard to Japan. These references are evidence that there is a
renewed commitment to the containment of China by Australia in all
spheres and is signalling to the Chinese government that the only role
that Australia accepts of China is it being a compliant (and growing)
trading partner. The pressure the Abbott government is feeling and its
desire to not upset America is also dangerous as the Americans are also
not happy with Australia. This should encourage the Abbott government to
be more respectful of China and not antagonise it further. If China
reacts militarily, the possibility that America would come to
Australia’s aid becomes even more remote. The veiled threats of
‘president-in-waiting’ Hillary Clinton that Australia should not
America in negotiations should be taken as a clear signal that America
will judge any escalation at the time of it happening and it will not
necessarily default to its historic alliances. This as a stand-alone
issue should be enough to alert the Abbott government to understanding
that any moves to contain China in the region will be to the detriment
of Australia. Perhaps the most frightening undertone to Clinton’s
statement is that it mimics the George W. Bush mantra of a country being
either ‘with us or against us,’[4] or in simpler terms, Australia must choose
between America and China.   From the aforementioned, and with regard
to China, the evidence suggests Australia is actively moving toward the
containment of China even though there is no evidence America will
support this position; Japan has been newly-befriended and embraced with
a military/information exchange deal; and India’s status has been
upgraded. This is a combination of events that is fraught with danger
for Australia; and is tantamount to an invitation to disaster.

What however, does India have to offer Australia and the region that
may dissipate what could be defined as a ‘coming storm.’   Perhaps it
will balance the region by the Abbott government adopting a newfound
friend and ally?  A perspective is needed here.  Unfortunately, the
answer to the above is the elevation of India will do nothing for
stability in the region, as has the exchanges with Japan. These sudden
‘recognitions’ will only inflame Australia-China relations beyond the
required modicums of civility that trading partners have to indulge.
China will be furious at Australia’s new-found alliances. Moreover, the
PRC will observe it as a direct insult and another geo-strategic move
which further destabilizes an already fractious region.   The new
dynamics that Australia is attempting to set in place, beyond the
trading commodities such as iron ore and gold—about 40% of Australia’s
exports to India are of gold[5]—are
however misguided at best and flagrantly antagonistic to China at
worst. If Australia is counting on India to exercise a naval military
presence in order to be yet another bulwark to China, Australia is being
profoundly imprudent as India simply does not have the military-stretch
to extend beyond South Asia. India is also beset with regional
political issues such as poisonous border issues with China; ongoing
political and geo-strategic issues with Pakistan; and ongoing
difficulties with China-Pakistan relations. Domestically, India also has
enormous problems. Chronic poverty being the most overt—India’s
Economic Advisory Council deemed 363 million people to be living in
poverty in 2014[6]—and according to the Asian Development Bank it also has ‘rampant corruption and [is an] ineffective and corrupt state.’[7]
Perhaps the least acknowledged issue however, and one that drains vast
amounts of India’s time and energy is ‘a guerrilla war in twenty states
covering 40 per cent of the country’s land mass.’[8]
The nationalistic fervour shown by the people of India in their
electing of Narendra Modi will not change these endemic problems that
have (and are) facing India in the short term. Therefore, and regardless
of India’s resentment of China’s growing influence, India’s sway in the
region therefore, will remain ‘rhetorical and potential rather than

The inclusion of India as an incremental-increase  in the containment
of China in an A-P ‘triangle of defence’ is yet another simplistic
foreign policy alternative to actually engaging with China on deeper
more meaningful geo-political and geo-strategic levels. Australia will
come to deeply regret recent moves to elevate India beyond that of a
valued trading partner. Furthermore it actually signals Australia—in the
current government and in the previous one— is fundamentally incapable
of looking beyond trade for its meaningful geo-strategic and political
relationships, and is weak-willed when trying to negotiate its way
through the regional (and ever-increasing) maize of potential
conflict-probabilities—that is, unless the US demands it, and Australia
should dispense with this historical cloak which consecutive Australian
governments in particular, have been unable to throw off.   The military
move toward India when it has in fact been ignored by Australia for
decades, the cut backs in Australia’s foreign aid which must impact on
India notwithstanding, also signals a panic on behalf of India in its
desire to offset China’s influence in the region. This has become a
lightning rod with which Australia—as poorly constructed as the foreign
policy has been—has been able to capitalize on. The Abbott government is
expanding on the Gillard governments’ approach to the A-P belonging to
America, and in doing so is seeking to default to the containment of
China at the behest of America.  A significant part of this driving
force and reasoning is because the Abbott Conservative government is
unable and/or unwilling to unshackle Australia from its British-colonial
ruler-of-Asia mentality. The fusing together of these elements will
incrementally and then dramatically increase the chances of an exchange
of fire between military forces happening.

The irresponsible attitude and opportunistic intent Australia is
exhibiting by embracing Japan and now India, is another stepping-stone
into a war breaking out and of Australia having to concede that it
played a major part in inflaming and destabilising the region: it may
take a decade from 2014, but the signs of war are already on the
horizon. Whether the mechanisms of previous Australia’s foreign policy
continue to be employed, and if they remain mired in their colonial past
in the new ‘age of pax-Sino,’ they will be given, in the first
instance short shrift by the PRC; and in the second will heighten the
chances of a military response from China. The well-trodden historical
colonialist-path that Australia is attempting to engage with by allying
with India directly impacts on the chances of there being peaceful
outcomes in the A-P region. If the PRC adopts the British model of rule
in the region, that of using force to reinforce their superiority—as
Great Britain did throughout the 1800s—a war will come sooner rather
than later and India, like Japan and America, will put its interests
first and once again, due to the foolhardy military-driven foreign
policies being adopted by the Abbott government, Australia will be found
wanting. India is simply not capable of being a bulwark against China
regardless of the elevated status Australia offers it in the region.
Essentially, all the additional recognition is achieving is the
inflaming China’s sense of humiliation; and China’s tolerance of this
will not be indefinite.   A war with China is ever-closer due to the
Abbott government’s ill-thought through and shambolic foreign policy.


[1] John Garnaut. ‘Australia and India to strengthen military ties.’ The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney: Fairfax Media, July 1, 2014.



[2] Mark Kenny and David Wroe ‘Defence alliance to anger China.’ The Age. Melbourne: The Age Company,July 9, 2014, 7.


[3] Paul McGeough. ‘Hillary Clinton criticises Australia for two-timing America with China.’ The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney: Fairfax Media, June 27, 2014.


[4] ‘You are either with us or against us.’ CNN.com. November 6, 2001.



[5] Michael Wesley. ‘The Elephant in the Room. Australia India Relations. The Monthly. February, 2012.



[6] Manu Joseph. ‘Setting a High Bar for Poverty in India.’ The New York Times. July 9, 2014.



[7] James Lamont and James Fontanell-Khan. ‘India: Writing on the wall.’ Financial Times. March 21, 2011.


[8] Martin Jacques. When China Rules the World. The end of the Western World and the birth of a new global order. England: Penguin Books, 2012, 448.


[9] https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2012/february/1328594251/michael-wesley/elephant-room

This article was first posted on Geo-Strategic Orbit and has been reproduced with permission.

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