Japan-Australia defence agreement signals that middle powers are willing to play a more active role in the Indo-Pacific

News: Australia and Japan recently signed a defence treaty called the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) which has a great strategic significance for Asia and the Indo-Pacific. 

What is the significance of the recently signed RAA?

It marks the move away from a US-centric outlook towards a greater focus on bilateral ties and regional groupings. 

It is also a sign that Japan is willing to play a more proactive role in the region. Tokyo is trying to seek RAA-like agreements with the UK and France as well.

It provides the middle powers like Japan, Australia, India to expand their cooperation and build on the momentum created by the Quad. 

It has generated some predictable negative reaction from China. 

The agreement further cements the trends that are part of the changing security architecture in the region.

How is the security architecture changing in the Indo-Pacific? 

After the Second World War, security order in Asia and the Indo-Pacific was marked by the US’s bilateral ties with various players, while in Europe, regional groupings like NATO played a key role. 

However, this has been changing recently due to the rise of an assertive China. 

The following positive developments are leading to a more empowered and committed regional strategic network

The region has seen the formation of many regional groupings and bilateral initiatives like Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or the Quad, with India, Japan, Australia and the US), the AUKUS, and now the RAA. 

Also, recently there has been a greater acceptance of Japan’s role as a strategic player in the region, as countries like Vietnam and the Philippines have started looking towards it for support against Beijing. 

These positive developments will lead to a more empowered and committed regional strategic network. 

What are the reasons for these changes? 

This has been enabled, among other factors, by Australia’s willingness to stand up to China on the question of a free and open Indo-Pacific and rules-based global order, despite their deep economic ties. 

What is the way forward for India? 

India already has “2+2” ministerial dialogues with both Japan and Australia and has done much to expand bilateral, trilateral and regional cooperation in the security domain. 

It must also reach out to other players in the region.  

Source: This post is based on the article “Japan-Australia defence agreement signals that middle powers are willing to play a more active role in the Indo-Pacific” published in The Indian Express on 7th Jan 2022.

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