DPG Indo-Pacific Monitor

Indo Pacific Monitor

Date: September 01, 2023
Two summits epitomized Indo-Pacific great power competition during the month.  The Camp David Summit, on August 18, resulted in the US and its East Asian allies, Republic of Korea and Japan, agreeing to consult each other and act together to address regional challenges, provocations and threats impacting their collective interests and security.  The 15th BRICS Summit at Sandton in South Africa from August 22-24, on the other hand, saw the BRICS-5 expanding to BRICS-11 as Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran joined the group of emerging economies and non-Western powers.

India’s historic Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully put a lander on the Moon’s South Polar Region for the first time in history on August 23, sparking a surge of national pride and announcing to the world India’s arrival as a space power. 

Two maritime incidents in the Indo-Pacific sparked attention during the month.  In the first, a China-Russia flotilla comprising 11 warships carried out a patrol off the Aleutian Islands, at the gateway from the Pacific to the Arctic Ocean.  The USN fielded a four-ship task force to shadow them, bringing into focus the advantage in numbers enjoyed by the China-Russia combine.  In the South China Sea’s Second Thomas Shoal, China’s Coast Guard used water cannon and blocking manoeuvres to prevent the Philippines from resupplying personnel on its grounded vessel BRP Sierra Madre, prompting an immediate warning from the US that any use of military force against Philippine official vessels would invoke the bilateral Mutual Defense Treaty.  The Philippines was eventually able to resupply its personnel, but tensions can be expected to continue.

India’s Navy reached out into the Southern Pacific through visits by frontline warships to Port Moresby, in Papua New Guinea.    The ships also visited Sydney, and are expected to visit New Zealand in early September.  Meanwhile, INS Vagir, a Kalvari-class submarine, undertook an extended deployment to Fremantle, in Australia.

The 27th edition of the India-US Exercise Malabar-2023 was conducted off Sydney from August 11-21.  The bilateral India-Australia Exercise AUSINDEX-23 followed, from August 22-25.

The Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement came into effect on August 14.  JASDF aircraft flew into RAAF Base Tindal for a bilateral exercise under the agreement from August 26-29, while Australian aircraft are slated to fly into Japan in early September to participate in Exercise Bushido Guardian.

The first Australia-Philippines joint amphibious exercise ALON was conducted in the Philippines from August 14-31.  It included an air assault exercise in Palawan on August 21, an amphibious assault in the Zambales Province on August 25 and live fire training on August 31, and simulated the retaking of a Filipino Island occupied by an external power.

Taiwan announced a defence budget request of nearly $ 16 billion for FY 2024, an increase of more than 7% over the previous year.  On August 31, Japan’s Ministry of Defence announced a budget request of ¥ 7.74 trillion ($ 53 billion) for FY 2024.

Vindhyagiri, the sixth of India’s Project 17A frigates, was launched by President Smt Droupadi Murmu at Kolkata on August 17.  The last ship of the series, Mahendragiri, will be launched at Mumbai on September 1.  The Indian Navy began the process of acquisition of Mine Counter Measures Vessels afresh, inviting proposals for the construction of eight vessels by Indian shipyards.  The Ministry of Defence also signed a contract for the procurement of four Fleet Support ships with Hindustan Shipyard Ltd on August 25.