In May 2018, India and Indonesia upgraded their ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership after a bilateral summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesia President Joko Widodo.
The two sides signed 15 new agreements, including the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA).
“Both leaders reaffirmed that Indonesia and India as strategic partners and maritime neighbours must work to further strengthen and broaden the already robust defence cooperation,” said the joint statement from Modi’s visit to Indonesia.
As recently as January this year, Indonesia and China were caught in a dispute over the Natuna Islands when a Chinese boat trespassed into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone off the northern islands of Natuna.
In February 2020, the US and India also joined hands to form a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during US President Donald Trump’s visit to India.
“Prime Minister Modi and President Trump vowed to strengthen the India-U.S. Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, anchored in mutual trust, shared interests, goodwill and robust engagement of their citizens,” said India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Modi and Trump also decided to strengthen consultation through India-US-Japan trilateral summits, since Japan is already a Comprehensive Economic partner with India.
“India and the United States took note of efforts towards a meaningful Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and solemnly urged that it not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of all nations according to international law,” said the MEA.
US and China are said to be ‘on the brink of a Cold War’ as issues between the two range from trade wars to humanitarian rights — and more recently the designation of Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The most recent addition to India’s Comprehensive Strategic Partnerships is Australia. The two countries upgraded their relationship during the first virtual summit between the two countries on June 4.
Australia and India have been growing close with Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrisson holding more bilateral talks over the past 18 months. Like the US, Australia also vowed for a more ‘ruled based’ Indo-Pacific region.
Australia has significant interests in the South China Sea — economically and geopolitically. Australia has been conducting its own airborne surveillance operations called Operation Gateway since 1980 — some of which have been verbally challenged by China.
“Everything is a part of the large geopolitical landscape ranging from the India-China border issue to Taiwan, to Hong Kong, to the South China Sea,” former ambassador and a distinguished fellow with Mumbai-based thinktank Gateway House told Business Insider.
“They [Australia] have their own issues with China. We have our own issues with China. Each country has to deal and address them. At the same time, the commonality of interests between the two countries are pulling them closer together — that is the single most important message that comes out from this,” he added.
The Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA) between Australia and India, will allow both countries to use each other’s military bases.
In the past 24 months, Vietnam and India also strengthened their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership when President Ram Nath Kovind visited the Southeast Asian nation.
During the visit, the two sides discussed the South China Sea issue, and progress on the implementation of a $100 million credit package to support Vietnam’s border forces in building high-speed patrol boats.
Both, the Parcel Islands and the Spratly Islands, are contested territory between Vietnam, Taiwan and China.