Australia's foreign minister on Wednesday backed the formation of a security pact with India and the United States, saying it could be set up if Canberra ends a ban on uranium sales that has annoyed New Delhi.
It is the latest move by Australia to take a bigger role in the region's security. Earlier this month, it agreed to host a de facto US base in the north of the country which would provide military reach into southeast Asia and the South China Sea, where China has disputes with several other states over sovereignty.
A new trilateral pact bringing in India into a US-Australian security tent was worth exploring because "from little things big things grow", foreign minister Kevin Rudd said in an interview with the Australian Financial Review newspaper.
"The response from the Indian government has really been quite positive." It was unclear why Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking Sinophile, would risk irritating Australia's top trade partner China which is already nervous that Obama's latest diplomatic push into the Asia-Pacific is part of broader US policy to encircle it.
But Rudd earlier this month said Australia's security arrangements with the United States were not "snap-frozen in time", and while China wanted to see the elimination of US alliances in East Asia, Australia disagreed.
"We are not going to have our national security policy dictated by any other external power. That's a sovereign matter for Australia," he said.