Wed, 25 Nov 2020

Canberra [Australia], October 24 (ANI): Amid growing Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific region, Australia has now announced its decision to shift its naval presence in the Middle East to Asia-Pacific and China.

Quoting Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, ABC News reported that Australia will no longer send a Royal Australian Navy ship to the Middle East every year.

Further, the country will also withdraw from the US-led naval coalition patrolling the Strait of Hormuz at the end of 2020.

"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 initiatives under the Pacific Step Up, and several highly successful activities with our regional partners," Minister Reynolds said.

"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," the Minister added.

ABC News further said in its report that the shift was flagged in the government's recent Defence Strategic Update, which declared that deteriorating strategic circumstances would force the military to focus more sharply on the Indo-Pacific and Australia's immediate region.

This comes days after India had announced the participation of Australia in the upcoming Malabar exercise alongside the US and Japan.

On October 19, the Defence Ministry had said in a statement, "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.""High-end military exercises like MALABAR are key to enhancing Australia's maritime capabilities, building interoperability with our close partners, and demonstrating our collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific," Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia said in response.

The decision received a huge applaud even in the US.

A group of US Senators had written a letter to Indian Ambassador to US Taranjit Singh Sandhu saying, "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." (ANI)

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