Like-minded countries should act cohesively to protect interests in Indo-Pacific: Australian PM

·3-min read

New Delhi, Apr 15 (PTI) The Indo-Pacific region has become the epicentre of strategic competition and like-minded nations need to act more consistently and cohesively to protect their shared interests in the face of multiple challenges, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.

In an address at the Raisina Dialogue, he also said liberal rules and norms are under assault and a polarisation is taking place between authoritarian regimes and liberal democracies.

The Australian prime minister also talked about India's increasingly active role in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific and said both countries are looking at boosting cooperation in a plethora of sectors like trade and commerce, science and technology, cyber security and in the maritime domain.

'In India I know we have a friend who will help build our region,' he said.

Morrison said the coronavirus pandemic has provided a fresh perspective in creating new opportunities to build a durable strategic balance in the Indo-pacific region.

Without mentioning any country, he also referred to the growing tensions over territorial claims and the unprecedented pace of military modernisation in the region.

'Democratic sovereign nations are being threatened and coerced by foreign interference. Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated, including from state-sponsored actors,' Morrison said at the virtual conference.

'Economic coercion is being employed as a tool of statecraft. Liberal rules and norms are under assault and there is a great polarisation that our world is at risk of moving towards,' he added.

Morrison said a polarisation is taking place between authoritarian regimes and liberal democracies, adding that a liberal democracy and a liberal set of values underpin the global order that has delivered so much to the world.

He said like-minded nations need to act more consistently and cohesively in protecting their shared interests.

'The Indo-Pacific is the region that will shape our prosperity, our security and our destiny, individually and collectively,' Morrison said.

'The Indo-Pacific is the epicentre of strategic competition,' he added.

The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China's increasing military muscle-flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers.

India, the US, Australia and Japan have vowed to work collectively under the framework Quad or Quadrilateral coalition towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

In his address, Morrison also referred to the comprehensive strategic partnership forged between India and Australia in June last year and said it was a reflection of the shared values and interests of the two countries.

He said India is building economic capability, promoting maritime security and advocating regional cooperation, and Australia welcomed New Delhi's leadership.

The Australian prime minister also made a mention of the virtual summit of the Quad leaders last month, calling it a historic meeting.

He said the four Quad member countries are focussed on an inclusive agenda for the Indo-Pacific.

The Quad comprises India, Australia, the US and Japan.

Speaking at a separate session at the Raisina Dialogue, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Japan will take a greater leadership role in ensuring a free-and-fair order on economic and security fronts.

He also mentioned the Quad leaders' summit, saying they expressed commitment to deepen cooperation in a range of areas such as infrastructure development, cyber security, climate change and maritime security. PTI MPB RC