Tag: Indo-Pacific

Quad meeting bats for ‘rule-based’ global order with China on the radar

Photos- @MarisePayne

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 19 September: The 3rd Quad Ministerial meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India, Australia, Japan, and the USA, on 18 February 2021, amidst the Facebook standoff in Australia and the farm laws, stalemate in India, ended with individual statements by respective countries. Quad meetings do not issue a joint statement.

Attended by Dr. S. Jaishankar, India’s Minister of External Affairs with his counterparts Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken the Quad meeting statements emphasize solving international disputes in accordance with international law.

Without naming China the online meeting’s emphasized opposing attempts to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific region.

India’s MEA statement says, “The Ministers emphasized their commitment to upholding a rules-based international order, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas and peaceful resolution of disputes.”

A statement from the Australian Foreign Minister’s office says, “We reaffirmed our commitment to supporting an open, inclusive and resilient region where the rights of all countries are respected and disputes are resolved peacefully, free from coercion, and in accordance with international law.

Underpinning these commitments is our steadfast support for ASEAN centrality and the principles set out in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. Quad countries work with ASEAN and through ASEAN-led architecture, particularly the East Asia Summit, to advance a stable and prosperous region.

We discussed the increasingly complex strategic challenges facing the region, and the growing pressures on rules, norms, and institutions. Despite the significant disruption COVID-19 is causing, we remain focused on responding to these longer term challenges.”

It adds: “We reiterated our commitment to deepen Quad cooperation on regional priorities ranging from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, maritime security, infrastructure, supply chain resilience, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief, cyber and critical technologies to countering disinformation. We discussed the importance of deepening our cooperation to address climate change. We reiterated our serious concerns about the military coup in Myanmar and affirmed our commitment to its democratic transition.”

In a Tweet, Marise Payne says: “The Quad has a positive agenda for supporting an open, inclusive & resilient Indo-Pacific. I thank my colleagues Dr. S Jaishankar, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken for a productive discussion on our shared goals.”

Secretary Antony Blinken Tweeted, “I had the pleasure to speak with my Quad counterparts Marise Payne, Moteging, and Dr. S. Jaishankar. I look forward to deepening our cooperation on climate change and COVID-19, supporting ASEAN centrality, and advancing our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Speaking to reporters after the online Quad meeting, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said the ministers also affirmed the need to swiftly restore democracy in Myanmar, where the state military staged a coup on Feb. 1.

“We had candid talks about cooperation toward the free and open Indo-Pacific and on regional and global issues,” including responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic and climate change, Motegi said.

Axing protection for national strategic languages is no way to build ties with Asia


By Melissa Crouch*

We all had hoped for a positive start to 2021, but that has not been the case for Australia’s engagement in the region. The Australian government has shown disregard for the importance of our ties with Asia by axing its commitment to national strategic languages.

The Commonwealth has identified the study of languages such as Indonesian as being of national strategic importance since 2006.

From 2013, the government committed to promoting national strategic languages. These included Arabic, Indonesian, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Japanese and Korean. The list potentially included any other languages identified by the Commonwealth.

This priority list was clear recognition that Australians must improve their capacity in these languages to be equipped for the Asian Century.

Funding terms no longer protect languages
One way the government promoted and protected these languages was through Commonwealth funding agreements with universities.

Every few years, the Commonwealth comes to an agreement with each university on the terms and conditions of the funding it provides. A condition of these agreements was that a university had to consult with the Commonwealth and obtain its approval if it planned to close a particular course. This included courses in nationally strategic languages.

A university could not close a language program involving a nationally strategic language without government approval. This condition was important symbolically as well as practically. It emphasised to universities the importance of commitment to Asian languages.

Funding agreements every year up to 2020 included protection for national strategic languages. This year the provision has suddenly disappeared from the agreements without consultation.

What this demonstrates is the nonsensical nature of the government’s new funding scheme for universities. It appears to offer an incentive for students to study a language by reducing fees for these courses. In reality, the government has made it easier for universities to cancel a language program.

And the government is aware several universities have proposed closing language programs as their budgets feel the pinch from the COVID-19 pandemic. These include La Trobe (Hindi and Indonesian), Swinburne (all foreign languages), Murdoch (Indonesian), Western Sydney University (Indonesian) and Sunshine Coast (Indonesian). Removing protection for national strategic languages shows the government’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region is mere lip service. (Since the original announcements, the programs at La Trobe and Murdoch have been given temporary reprieves.)

Universities will lose by axing languages

From enhanced diplomatic relations and cultural engagement to trade relations and social and religious ties, language learning has no shortage of benefits for individuals, communities and the nation as a whole.

Universities must acknowledge what they stand to lose if they close their language programs. Recent decisions like Swinburne’s to close its Japanese and Chinese programs, now confirmed to staff, come at a real cost to the university.

The best universities in Australia know they attract students by leading with world-class research. However, a shrinking number of universities can credibly lay claim to world-class research that is relevant to the region in terms of language programs and academic country expertise. Any university can pay consultants to produce a slick marketing campaign but that is meaningless if the university lacks the expertise to back it up.

Closing language programs could lead to a loss of international students, particularly higher degree students, on top of those already lost to COVID-related border closures. These students are often attracted by specific country expertise that Australian universities and academics have to offer.

Australia was once known as the mecca of the academic world for Asian studies expertise. The breadth and diversity of its language programs was an integral part of that. It’s time to rebuild that status.

A blow to regional engagement

By cancelling language programs, universities are forfeiting their leading role in promoting deep and long-term engagement with our region. Quite simply, the lack of commitment of many universities demonstrates a gap in deep understanding of the importance of the Indo-Pacific to Australia.

The region has no shortage of challenges and its political, economic and social well-being directly affect Australia. COVID-19 is a stark example of this. Australia can’t afford to be monolingual in its engagement with the region.

What happened to a positive start to meet the challenges of a post-2020 world? Surely our government with its stated ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region must prioritise structural arrangements with our universities that ensure the next generation can equip themselves with the language skills they need for the Asian Century.

* Professor and Associate Dean Research, Law School, UNSW
Source- The Conversation, 9 February 2021 (Under Creative Commons Licence)

Australia’s defence boost to counter rising Chinese power in the Indo-Pacific region

Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the media. Photo: Facebook Live

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 1 July 2020: The reason behind Australia’s decision to strengthen its defense spending, with $ 270 billion including acquiring $ 800 m worth AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles from the United States, Dr. Pradeep Taneja, Deputy Head of Social & Political Sciences, Melbourne University says is to counter, “The shifting balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region because of the rising power of China and it asserting it. And being the second biggest military power in the world.”

Another factor, Pradeep feels, “is Australia asserting independence by being self-reliant in defense matters, while maintaining its strategic alliance with the United States.”

In the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, announced today, the Morrison Government signals a key change in Australia’s defense posture, as it prioritizes the Indo-Pacific region.
The update provides a new plan to tackle Australia’s defense challenges while increasing investment and personnel across the entire Australian Defence Force.

The announcement comes amidst the recent tensions between Australia and China, its largest trading partner. Australia’s COVID-19 international inquiry support, China increasing tariffs on imports of Australian Barley and the recent hacking alert by Canberra seems to have tightened up relations between the two countries. Plus, Beijing’s troubles with the Trump administration and Australia being a US ally, does not cut ice with China.

In his media update, PM Scott Morrison when talking about “country’s interests in a changing global environment”, did not mention China, but it was obvious to which country he was referring to.

Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds said, “Defence thinking, strategy, and planning have shifted gears to respond to our constantly changing and deteriorating strategic and defense environment.”