Defence minister AK Antony will visit Singapore, Australia, and Thailand next week, close on the heels of a four-day tour of the Prime Minister to Japan and Thailand that has triggered unease in Beijing.
Antony’s visits to bolster defence ties with these countries is likely to cause further discomfort to China, which has always been suspicious of growing strategic relations between India and countries in the Indo-pacific region, experts said.
Antony will be the first Indian defence minister to visit Australia. China has in the past has flagged concerns about India roping Australia into bilateral naval exercises with the US.
The experts said China would be closely monitoring India’s deepened diplomatic engagement with these countries, especially in the backdrop of the recent border tensions in eastern Ladakh.
“India was earlier cautious in engaging Japan and Australia. The Chinese must realise that India’s motivation to press the accelerator in the Indo-Pacific region has enhanced,” said strategic affairs expert Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak (retd).
Government sources said India’s diplomatic initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region should not be seen as a means to contain China, but a “natural play in the larger strategic neighbourhood.” “This urgency should have been showed earlier to find more play to pursue strategic, economic and military interests in the Indo-Pacific region,” Kak added.