India, Australia must stand together, says Scott Morrison

Australian Prime Minister warns of tensions due to territorial claims in Indo-Pacific region.

India and Australia should stand together for democratic freedoms amid “a great polarisation” in the region between authoritarian countries and liberal democracies, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.

Addressing the annual Raisina Dialogue from Perth, organised virtually this year by the Observer Research Foundation and the Ministry of External Affairs, the Australian Prime Minister described the recently held first-ever Quad leaders’ summit, which he attended along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, as a “historic” moment for “like-minded” countries in the region.

Mr. Morrison said India and Australia “share a deep friendship, or as you say in India, maitri”, and shared in common “passion for democratic freedom, commitment to the rule of law, and a free and open Indo-Pacific region”.

He described the region as “dynamic” and “full of promise”, but said Australia was “not blind to the geopolitical reality” of it becoming the “epicentre of strategic competition”.

‘Indo-Pacific region’

“The Indo-Pacific is the region that will shape our prosperity, our security and our destiny, individually and collectively,” Mr. Morrison said, as he warned of tensions due to territorial claims as well as “unprecedented” military modernisation.

Mr. Morrison did not name China but spoke of foreign interference and economic coercion, two issues that have emerged as strains in the Australia-China relationship.

“Democratic sovereign nations are being threatened and coerced by foreign interference,” he said.

“Cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated, including from state-sponsored actors. 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 — a polarisation between authoritarian regimes and autocracies, and the liberal democracies that we love.”

Mr. Morrison called for “like-minded nations”, including India and Australia, to “act more consistently, more cohesively, more often, in our shared interests” and to protect “liberal values that underpin the global order”.

‘Strategic balance’

Countries should come together “to build a durable strategic balance in the Indo-Pacific”, a balance that he said, quoting former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, “favours freedom”.

In this context, Mr. Morrison said the Quad leaders’ summit was “a historic first” and “a mark of the momentum that continues to be built among like-minded counties in our region”.

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