Anxious About Growing China-Russia Ties, Says Australian Deputy PM Marles

Marles is the first senior leader in the Anthony Albanese led new Australian government to visit India within weeks of the cabinet taking shape.

Australian Deputy PM Richard Marles

New Delhi: India’s key strategic partner and Quad member Australia is mindful of the deepening China-Russsia alliance. Richard Marles, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minster in the newly sworn in Labour government said in a response to a question by this correspondent at a press interaction in New Delhi.

Marles is the first senior leader in the Anthony Albanese led new Australian government to visit India within weeks of the cabinet taking shape.

Hours ahead of the BRICS virtual summit meet on Thursday, Marles said Canberra is mindful of the growing alliance in the Indo-Pacific by China and Russia, both members of the five member group along with India, Brazil and South Africa. China has been Putin’s pre-eminent backer amid efforts by US led West to declare Russia a pariah state in the wake of the Ukraine war.

“We are anxious about growing relationship between China and Russia. We have seen a practical expression being given to that in the joint exercises that have been undertaken by China and Russia in the Pacific. That is a concern. We are very mindful of that,” Marles said.

“For democracies it is really important that we are standing in protection of a global rules based order which has provided peace around the world, particularly peace within our region,” the senior Australian leader added.

Prime Minister Modi will attend the BRICS virtual summit hosted by President Xi Jinping, the first since the outbreak of the pandemic. This even as the Indian and Chinese armies continue to remain in tense standoff at the Line of Actual Control despite multiple rounds of talks in the past two years.

Expressing solidarity with India, the Australian senior leader underlined the Galwan clashes as proof of increased Chinese assertiveness beyond the South China Sea.

“When we look at what happened at the Line of Actual Control, what we are seeing there is one country seeking to deal with its disputes not against set of rules but through power and force. That is a concern. We are seeing a greater assertiveness on the part of China in the South China Sea,” said the Deputy Prime Minster.

Anthony Albanese was sworn in as Prime Minister just hours before the Quad summit in Tokyo. He met with US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Modi and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida soon after.

The Japanese Defence Minister had revealed in a press conference later that his country scrambled jets after Russian and Chinese warplanes neared its airspace while the Quad meeting was underway.

Tokyo had conveyed “grave concerns” to both Russia and China through diplomatic channels, Chinese defence ministry though claimed the exercise was part of an “annual military cooperation plan

In a clear signalling of strained ties with China contrary to the Labour government’s past cosy relations, Marles repeatedly stressed on Beijing’s growing muscle flexing in Indo-Pacific and an assertion of ‘an idea of sovereignty in the South China Sea, completely inconsistent with the UN Convention on Laws of the Sea.’ The Minister emphasised that China is seeking to shape the world ‘in a way not seen before.

He added that Australia is looking at the India- China confrontation with concern and it is hard to know where the Chinese assertiveness ends.

On the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he said that Australia is working closely with the World Food Program and India to deal with the global food supplies crisis. However he added that the position that India takes on the Ukraine war is a matter for the Indian government.

During his four day official, Marles took a sortie on the Indian Navy’s Boeing P8 Poseidon American maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft from Goa to Delhi. He also held meetings with Defence Minster Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar and addressed the National Defence College while in Delhi.

On a lighter vein he mentioned that his 15 year old son was excited about his father’s visit to India not for political reasons but because it is the land of Virat

Kohli- among the teenager’s favourite cricketers. Highlighting the importance of the growing Indian diaspora in Australia, Marles’ emphasised that the Albanese government places high priority on the bilateral relationship.

ALSO READ: Draupadi Murmu Leaves For Delhi, Well-Wishers Gather To See Her Off