Australia and Japan Naval Defense Program


In April 2022, Japan, for the 9th time in a row, had presented its budget with a major focus on its defence, particularly naval force wherein it presented its goal of boosting its capabilities within the next 5 years. This particular budget and policies adopted by the Japanese Government could have been inspected through a wider lens of its growing participation in several bilateral and multilateral agreements and exercises, and had aligned with its national agenda for strengthening its defence acceleration , indicating focus on security, humanitarian aid, rescue operations and so on. The multifold target areas set by the Japanese Ministry of Defense in their procurement, development and improvement of various warships and technological advancements along with the coordinated defence projects with nations such as the US, Australia, India, etc. came to be seen as a proof of its progress towards strategic security policies and recognition of strengthening its defence mechanism in the light of emerging global geopolitical instability. These measures sent a message to the world of the nation’s cooperative defence plans that transcended national borders yet gave Japan the edge to secure its territories. 

Over the years, Japan has strategically strengthened its defence force. Since 2022 there have been heavy investments in defence developments with multifold projects of joint exercises, bilateral agreements, cooperative developments, strict surveillance of the borders and seas, increased budget focus on defence, specialised training of the forces, and so on. In 2023 the budget of Japan saw another increase in their defence sector aligning with its numerous development projects, including the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI), a joint development with the US, two aegis – equipped destroyers, etc. In September 2023, the Ministry of Defence, Japan published its budget with another steep increase in its defence sector. Over the years, these efforts have only grown with initiatives from various other nations. While Japan is in its third year of Five – Year Defence Plan, another nation has also begun a similar operation of securing its maritime security. Australia has prepared an extensive 10 Year – Plan in securing its borders by leaping through the global arms race. 

In February 2024, Australia announced strengthening its naval defence presence in the Asia – Pacific Sea lines. While the nation has been active in diplomacy, it has always had a stance of peaceful resolution of conflicts and cooperative development goals. Therefore, this step comes as a shock to a lot of its counterparts as well as economic stakeholders whose major business is conducted through the routes of Asia – Pacific. Thus, the region holds strategic importance and it is always the effort of powerful as well as emerging powers to control the sea route. In the light of this background, it shall be easier to understand the strategic developments that have been taken by Australia and also to ponder the various actors that have defined a similar course and the contribution made by the nation in alliance with other nations. 

Earlier this month, Australia decided to increase its naval fleet, the largest since World War II, as claimed by the Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles. In its elaborate 10 – year strategy, the Australian Royal Navy has decided to invest 7 billion USD and acquire about 26 surface combatant warships and addition to its naval fleet, including 9 Tier 1 surface combatants and 6 large optionally crewed surface vessels (LOSVs)

International Agreements

Apart from their respective domestic efforts, these nations have also entered into bilateral as well as multilateral agreements with each other and other friendly nations, in cooperating with respect to strengthening their maritime security, and by extension, Asia – Pacific Region against the economic or strategic monopoly. These efforts have not erupted spontaneously in geopolitics, rather are the results of various manoeuvres of nations at stake in the region.

Over the years, Japan and Australia have somewhat shifted from their initial perspective of global cooperation and resorted towards hard power and soft power diplomacy along with stronger defence mechanisms. Both of these nations have had a passive and ideological approach towards security and arms race. Both of them condemned India on its nuclear tests and very amongst the nations implying the sanctions at a time of India’s strained economic relations. But with the revival of QUAD and the continuous meetings of leaders and the goals of cooperative research and security of marine ecosystem has resulted in a thriving political and economic relations amongst the member nations, benefiting everyone in terms of increased economic activities, cooperative strategic planning in the Pacific region, research and development, and so on. The nations surrounding the Indian Ocean Region as well the Asia – Pacific Region play a vital role in determining the shape of the geopolitical scenario. However, key players, Japan and Australia, have had a docile attitude towards the changing maritime security concerns in this region. With the advent of these nations in a more truculent action in securing their territorial extents and strengthening their defence forces, gives away the indications of turbulent waves of drastic changes in the region. 

In a newly recovered world after COVID – 19 Pandemic, 2022 marked a year of significant changes in global economic structures, India’s active involvement in global Maritime Security issues, increased participation of Caribbean and Mediterranean nations and the superpowers backing the claims of growing tensions in the seas. With India emerging as the voice of Global South, the nations have come to realise the importance of their strategically befitting relations amongst themselves. In August 2023, Ministry of Defence, Australia released a statement of its commitment to strengthen their defence ties with Japan by signing the Japan – Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) with immediate effect. Marking a significant step, this agreement implies a stronger defence cooperation between the 2 nations. There are about 50 nations in the Indian Ocean and Asia – Pacific Region. So, why do the actions of two distant nations matter? It’s because of their close political ties and their respective histories of colonialism, wars, and their role in shaping policies of the regions. As two of the most powerful nations in the area, they practically dictate the order of business, making them uncrowned kings of the business. But lately, this crown has been slipping with a new fish in the pond dirtying the waters around. Needless to say, China is not just fidgeting around with India and Russia, but is also dipping its toes far off in the oceans, establishing its stronghold in every crucial point of juncture. This has become a concern for a lot of nations for various obvious reasons. Their economic and security portals are at a great risk of being compromised and what’s worse is the fact that despite the visible shrewd policies of China, there is little to no effort that can be put to stop its manoeuvres. 

Why the Sudden Change of Heart? 

In all the years from 1945 to 2015, marine life and ecosystem has only been the concern for research and development, extending largely towards conservation of biodiversity and extracting minerals and resources. It is said that around 80% of the marine ecosystem remains undiscovered. International organisations have been too occupied dealing with the remnants of World War – II and the political instability in the Middle – East nations, that they paid little heed to the deep waters. This was also the period wherein the majority nations became independent and liberated from imperial powers and new theories of governance emerged in Asia. One such emerging power is China, the largest communist nation that went from colonial to superpower in less than 7 decades. A world economic centre of manufacturing and a strategic political figure in Asia, China has marked its presence in every corner of the world. And it did so very efficiently, structurally planning its domestic and international policies in a way that would benefit them in achieving their larger goal of global dominance or establishing hegemony. Till 2015, China managed to maintain its relationship with other superpowers as well as its neighbouring nations as a strategic attribute. However, with its increasing economy and growing aspirations, it ventured out of its territories when it managed to establish its first overseas post in Djibouti. The period from 2015 signifies an overhaul of China’s grand strategy, which many political analysts term as the String of Pearls. Over the years, it managed to establish its naval posts, economic relations and embassies in a lot crucial East African and island nations, giving it an upper edge in the Arabian Sea and smooth conduct of its business via Suez Canal by setting up its relations in Central Asia in the guise of common interests and development. Post – Pandemic, there have been new developments and it is said at the geopolitical stage that China might be on its way to add another layer to its String, with its extensive projects in South – East Asia nations such as Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, a condition so alarming that has all the small nations concerned over their resource and border security. The most efficient method of China, its Debt – Trap Policy has been, so far, successful in dictating the affairs of various underdeveloped nations. Moreover, its aggressively expanding projects in the South China Sea and Asia – Pacific Region pose a great security threat to nations like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. And now, with its recent ties with Russia, have come out to the world as a shock in the face of crumbling world order. While America may seem nonchalant about its counter effects, it is no news that this recent tie up has the world worried, including the nations having cordial relations, especially with USA and Russia. 

Therefore, seeing as Japan and Australia have deepened their ties and have taken upon themselves the responsibilities to secure their common interests against that of China and Russia, it becomes more prudent for member nations of QUAD along with the nations in these region to blend in their defence strategies and provide an efficient long term plan of smooth deterrence against the overtly operative Chinese forces. 

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